Officers and cadets from USF’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) joined a crowd of 250 at the Lone Mountain flag court on Oct. 9 to honor 1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno ’10.
A suicide bomber killed her and three other U.S. Army soldiers in Afghanistan just three days earlier. Their deaths made national headlines when the federal government shutdown prevented their families from receiving compensation for burial and other expenses.
“She died living her mission of service to her country and to the global community, and we honor her sacrifice,” said USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J., during the flag-lowering ceremony and memorial service. “We are extraordinarily proud and forever grateful to Jennifer for the difference she made at such a young age.”
Moreno, 25, was the first member of USF’s ROTC to die in action since the Vietnam War, and the first female from the program killed in battle. She was also one of the few U.S. women to serve on the front-lines in Afghanistan. California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the flags at the state Capitol in Sacramento lowered to half-staff in her honor.
Veterans groups called it “a disgrace” when the federal government couldn’t pay traditional death benefits to the soldiers’ grieving families. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel echoed the nation’s growing anger in a written statement: “I am offended, outraged, and embarrassed that the government shutdown had [sic] prevented the Department of Defense from fulfilling this most sacred responsibility in a timely manner.”
President Barack Obama publicly acknowledged the outrage and ordered his administration to find a solution. Fisher House, a private foundation, agreed to pay the benefits until the government could find a solution.
Moreno was on a mission to gather intelligence from Afghan women. She volunteered for the dangerous assignment because she believed it was the right thing to do, said Lt. Col. Derek K. Reeve, who led USF’s ROTC when Moreno was a student. She graduated three years ago from the School of Nursing and Health Professions.
“I think that Jenny never really knew how good she was,” said Susan Prion, associate professor of nursing and Moreno’s academic adviser for four years. “She had a joyful heart, a beautiful smile, and a first-class intelligence. She died a hero, thinking of others instead of herself, and always believing that her actions would make the world a better place.”
Posthumously, the U.S. Army promoted Moreno to captain and awarded her a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.