Jennifer M Moreno came to us in the fall of 2006 as an intelligent young woman and she left us 4 years later as a smart, capable, and compassionate Baccalaureate-prepared nurse and Jesuit-educated Army officer. At first, she was my advisee, then my student, and finally, she became my colleague and my friend.
As the faculty advisor to the ROTC cadets, my tradition is to take the seniors for burritos on the Friday before their dreaded HESI exam. On Friday, February 26, 2010, I had that pleasure with Jenny. It was just the two of us, and I had a wonderful time learning more about her family, and her lifelong dream to attend USF and become a nurse. She told me that at first, she thought that she must go to a community college, but an ROTC scholarship helped her fulfill her nursing dream and gave her a new goal to be an officer in the Army Nurse Corps. She talked about her life as the child of a single immigrant mom, and how proud her family was that she was the first to attend college. She talked about how she had found friendship and community here, and how those relationships would carry her into the next phase of her life. She had her entire life and career in front of her, and she couldn’t wait to get started!
Jenny was basically shy. She was unassuming and would be quite embarrassed by all of this just for her. Through a very selective and tedious process, Jenny was chosen from the thousands of female Army officers, from the hundreds who applied, to the 50 who were approved, to the seven who were selected, to serve on the first ever Female Engagement Team. She was attached to a joint Special Operations cultural support team comprised of both multinational and multi-branch soldiers. This is one of the only ways for a female soldier to participate in combat missions with the all-male Army Ranger and Green Beret teams.
She volunteered for this assignment because she thought it was the right thing to do. Her roommate tells me that she was surprised and pleased to be selected, and thought it was funny that those tough Army Rangers and Green Berets that she worked with every day were amazed to find out that she was also a nurse (in addition to being a damn fine Army officer). In fact, no one I talked with who has been stationed in Afghanistan can remember a nurse ever being chosen for an assignment like this. To the very end, so typical of our Jenny and most nurses. Modest, unassuming, getting it done without a lot of fanfare and simultaneously blazing a trail as the first nurse to perform this sensitive mission of cultural ambassador in a hostile and unforgiving war zone. I bet that she smiled each time she put on her protective gear and walked out into the desert heat, because she was happy to be serving her country. CPT Moreno and her team were killed during a night mission that successfully prevented a high-profile suicide attack in the city of Kandahar, Afghanistan. Another suicide bomber detonated an explosive device near the Ranger-led patrol, and then a series of other bombs exploded. In addition to the four casualties, 30 soldiers were wounded.
I think that Jenny never really knew just how good she was. Or maybe she did, but chose to let others shine instead. She was quiet and dedicated and she always finished what she started. No muss, no fuss, but always dependable and responsible and good. She had a joyful heart, a beautiful smile and a first class intelligence. She was a typical nurse in that way. She loved hiking and snowboarding and the Ice Age movies, but Ice Age 2 more than 1 because of the sound track.
She always knew she was surrounded by love and she was doing exactly what she wanted. She died a hero, thinking of others instead of herself and believing that her actions would make the world a better place. Posthumously, she has been awarded both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, and promoted to the rank of Captain.
Jenny is survived by her mother, brother, two sisters, sister-in-law and her beloved nephew. Her friends ask that you keep her family in your thoughts and prayers at the difficult time.
On behalf of the School of Nursing and Health Professions, I’m so very proud and honored to claim CPT Jennifer M Moreno as a fellow nurse and one of our graduates. She embodies our USF mission and proves once again that each of us really can change the world from here.
Delivered 09 October 2013