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On guard: Short film focuses on Iraq War vet, cybersecurity expert

Ramona Emerson filmed the short “The Protector” in New Mexico. The film is streaming online on PBS.

Donavon Barney is a Marine Corps veteran who served in the Iraq War who embraces his traditional Navajo beliefs and connection to culture.

But he also understands that his people are in desperate need of technological development.

Faced with crumbling infrastructure on the Navajo reservation, Barney finds ways to advocate for his people through a career in cybersecurity.

The veteran is the subject of New Mexico filmmaker Ramona Emerson’s short film “The Protector.”

The short is streaming online in conjunction with the PBS documentary “The Warrior Tradition,” which will air at 8 p.m. Monday on New Mexico PBS station KNME-TV.

Ramona Emerson

Emerson has known Barney for a long time and thought he would be a perfect subject to chronicle for the five-minute short, which is streaming at

“He’s a photographer as well as a filmmaker,” she says. “I wanted to chronicle his story after I realized that he was a Marine and a war veteran. He’s always impressed me as a human being.”

Emerson says that at the time of the filming, Barney was studying cybersecurity in college.

“He was working for SIPI (Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute), and I wanted to showcase what he was doing there, what he does as an educator,” she says. ” All of this happened within months.”

Emerson ran into problems in production.

“I didn’t even know if this film was going to happen,” she recalls. “We couldn’t shoot at SIPI, and we basically had to remake the film in two weeks. Donavon was game to get everything captured, and he made it happen. We filmed in Albuquerque and To’hajiilee.”

Included on the site are essays expanding on the themes in the documentary, bonus videos, and classroom resources, including seven lesson plans for elementary and intermediate school students.

Also on the website are three other short, digital videos created by Native American filmmakers on the warrior tradition theme. The films are:

• “Disqualified Warriors” by Jeffrey Palmer, a Kiowa filmmaker.

• “Minnie’s Warbonnet” by Yvonne Russo, a Lakota filmmaker.

• “Art, Honor & Service” by Caleb G. Abrams, a Seneca filmmaker.


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