VA Medical Center in La Jolla is renamed in honor of Army nurse killed in Afghanistan

Maria Cordova (second from right), mother of late Army Capt. Jennifer Moreno
Maria Cordova, mother of Army Capt. Jennifer Moreno, speaks at a ceremony renaming the San Diego VA Medical Center in La Jolla in honor of her daughter, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013.
(David Haas / VA San Diego Healthcare System)

Capt. Jennifer Moreno, a San Diego native, died in 2013 while coming to the aid of fellow soldiers injured in an explosives attack.


The San Diego VA Medical Center in La Jolla was renamed this week in honor of Army Capt. Jennifer Moreno, a San Diego native who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013.

The new name is the Jennifer Moreno Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Moreno’s mother, Maria Cordova, and sister Yaritza Tello attended a formal renaming ceremony at the medical center on Dec. 19.

Moreno, a nurse, died while rushing to the aid of a fellow soldier during a raid on a residential compound where a wanted Taliban member was believed to be staying.

During the raid, an Afghan woman wearing explosives detonated herself, triggering other improvised explosive devices around the compound, injuring several soldiers. Moreno rushed to help one of them, triggering yet another IED. Moreno and three other soldiers were killed in the attack.

At the time, Moreno, 25, was attached to the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment as part of the Cultural Support Team program, or CST, which put women on the frontlines at a time when they were still barred from full-time combat jobs in the military.

Then-Army 1st Lt. Jennifer Moreno is seen in an undated photo.
Then-Army 1st Lt. Jennifer Moreno is seen in an undated photo.
(Associated Press)

Moreno was promoted to captain following her death and awarded the Bronze Star with a “V” device for valor.

She grew up in Logan Heights, graduated from San Diego High School in 2006 and studied nursing at the University of San Francisco on an ROTC scholarship.

She was commissioned in the Army after graduation and, while stationed at a base in Washington state, volunteered for a program that embedded female soldiers with Special Operations units to help soldiers on the frontlines deal with women in Afghanistan, whose interactions with men could be seen as inappropriate in their culture.

Moreno was selected on the recommendation of a panel of local veterans convened by U.S. Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) to identify a local veteran to honor in renaming the medical center. The panel’s report noted that Moreno’s death is still resonating in the service.

“Part of her legacy is the number of young women coming from medical fields, seeking out voluntary assignments to join the CST program,” the report said. “At virtually all memorials in her honor, a Ranger badge is present as a reminder of how deeply respected she was by her U.S. Army Ranger teammates.”

A bipartisan bill formalizing the renaming was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March.

A second service member identified by the panel, Navy Capt. Kathleen Bruyere, will have a prominent space at the medical center named for her. Bruyere, who died in 2020, helped shaped women’s equity in the Navy and the military’s policy on sexual discrimination. She successfully sued the Navy and defense secretaries in 1978 over the ban on women serving aboard ships. ◆