House OKs bill to rename San Diego's VA center after soldier killed in action
A federal bill to rename the San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center after a local U.S. Army captain who died in action in Afghanistan was unanimously approved Tuesday by the House of Representatives.
Rep. Mike Levin, D-Oceanside, wrote the legislation to rename the center after Capt. Jennifer M. Moreno, who died in Afghanistan in October 2013.
"For far too long, our country has failed to give women service members and veterans the recognition they have rightfully earned and deserve for their service and commitment to protecting this nation," Levin said in a statement. "Although this effort does not make up for all of the appreciation women veterans and service members are still owed, it's my great hope that renaming the San Diego VA Medical Center after a distinguished local woman veteran inspires similar recognition across the country."
Moreno was recommended for the honor by a panel of service members, veterans and community leaders convened by Levin last year. The group included members of organizations such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Levin called Moreno "a local hero who made the ultimate sacrifice in combat while attempting to save a fallen soldier, and her legacy has inspired countless young women to pursue military service."
Moreno was born in San Diego and raised in Logan Heights by her mother following the death of her father. She was deployed to Afghanistan in June 2013 with the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment.
According to Department of Defense records, three months into her first tour, Moreno was on a night mission in Kandahar Province when four explosive devices were triggered. She survived the initial blasts -- including a suicide explosive that went off at close range -- but while she was trying to help a fallen soldier, she triggered a fifth explosion, and she died on Oct. 6, 2013.
Moreno was the first Nurse Cultural Support Team member to die in action, and was promoted posthumously to captain. She was the first combat casualty to be buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego in the post-9/11 era, according to Levin's office.
The panel convened by Levin also recommended "that a prominent space within the San Diego VA Medical Center be named after U.S. Navy Capt. Kathleen M. Bruyere," a San Diego resident who fought for expanded opportunities for women in the military.
In 1977, Bruyere and five other women officers successfully sued the Navy and the U.S. Secretary of Defense, challenging restrictions that barred women from serving on combat aircraft and ships.
Ten years later, she took part in a Naval study that led to 9,000 new jobs opening up for women on 24 combat ships. She retired in 1994 and died in 2020. She was buried at Miramar National Cemetery with full military honors, according to Levin's office.