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Army nurse from San Diego killed in Afghanistan

SAN DIEGO — A 25-year-old San Diego woman and three other Army soldiers were killed when their unit was attacked by enemy forces using an improvised explosive device in Zhari, Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Army 1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno of San Diego died Sunday, along with two Army Rangers and an Army police officer when their unit was attacked. Sgt. Patrick C. Hawkins, 25, of Carlisle, Pa.; Sgt. Joseph M. Peters, 24, of Springfield, Mo.; and Pfc. Cody J. Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Ore.,  also died in the attack, according to a Defense Department statement.

Moreno was assigned to the Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis- McChord, Wash; Hawkins and Patterson were both assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga; and Peters was assigned to the 5th Military Police Battalion, Vicenza, Italy.

She graduated from San Diego High School and the University of San Francisco, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She deployed to Afghanistan in June as part of a cultural support team assigned to the Army Special Operations Command.

“We are extremely sad,” said one of her high school teachers, Ms. Reese, “she was quality person. A quality young women.”

Looking through their San Diego High School year book, two of her former teachers talk about Moreno and remember a young women they describe as a great leader,  a member of the ROTC and someone who was kind.

“She always wanted to be a nurse,” said teacher,  Jennifer Harden, adding, “it was her goal from the time she left for college.”

“Typically they give them 100k for emergency before other benefits kick in,” said Michael Sloan, who counsels war veterans, adding, “it comes before the insurance policy and such.”

He’s describing death benefits normally sent to military families days after they’re loved one is killed in action.  “For a family suffering a loss the last thing they want to hear is this is on hold.”

In what may be the biggest casualty of the government shutdown, death benefits have been suspended.

“It invalidates the fact that she went into harm way to protect our way for life.” said Sloan, adding, “and now we’re telling the family we are going to put this all on hold.”

Moreno was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge.

California Gov. Jerry Brown said Moreno “bravely gave her life in service to our state and nation,” and ordered that flags be flown at half- staff at the Capitol in Sacramento in her honor Tuesday.

Moreno is survived by her mother, Marie V. Cordero, and her sisters Jearaldy Moreno and Yaritza Cordova of San Diego, and her brother, Ivan F. Moreno, currently serving in the U.S. Army.

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