MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Washington –
Oct. 6, 2023 marked the 10th year since Madigan Army Medical Center lost its only Soldier in combat in the War on Terror. It was an attack that reportedly wounded 30 Army Rangers and killed a total of four Soldiers. Capt. Jennifer Moreno, a nurse at Madigan, died during the attack embodying a cornerstone of the Army Values and a vital component of the Soldier’s Creed: “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
On the evening of Oct. 5, 2013, Moreno and the other Soldiers of the regiment were performing a raid on an enemy bomb-making compound in the Zhari District of Afghanistan. It was there that a suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive device. Following the explosion, other enemy insurgents activated more improvised explosives in what has widely been called a “deadly day” in the war on terror.
“Even at the end, Jenny was driven by her need to help, and the training she had as a nurse to help those in her unit at the end,” said Jessica (Rea) Vailencour, a registered nurse at Madigan who bonded with Moreno early in her career. “We miss her and her beautiful smile.”
Moreno, who commissioned into the Army as a nurse and volunteered to deploy with joint special operations task force as a Cultural Support Team member, selflessly went to the aid of another Soldier wounded in the attack.
In an attempt to attend to her comrade, she stepped on a concealed landmine and was killed. Ultimately, Moreno sacrificed her own life attempting to save others. It was Moreno’s first deployment. She was posthumously promoted to captain and awarded the Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Purple Heart, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and NATO Medal.
Moreno served her nation and died as a warrior, but is endearingly remembered by many at Madigan as “Jenny”. Many of the colleagues and friends still at Madigan who worked with her in the “7 North” inpatient area of Madigan’s hospital tower not only have fond memories of her, but have taken steps to honor her legacy and share memories of the person that they knew with new generations of Madigan staff and visitors.
In addition to a large memorial stone bearing her likeness at Madigan’s iconic pond of fountains, Madigan’s 7 North section honors her with a carved wooden plaque and a wall-mounted display case adorned with images of Moreno with her colleagues. It is apparent from the litany of pictures that Moreno was more than just a “co-worker” to her team at Madigan, there was a meaningful bond and camaraderie.
“You always wanted to have Jenny on your team because she was good under pressure and a willing and helpful teammate. She was driven and loved being an Army officer and a nurse seeking out opportunities to grow in her knowledge and skills. To this day we have patients, patients’ family members, visitors and staff that come by the unit and read the memorial board. It is a daily reminder of why we are here to train the active duty service members to be ready to care for those in a war-time mission,” Vailencour said.
Madigan registered nurse Elizabeth Edgecombe echoed Vailencour’s sentiments regarding Moreno.
“My special memory of Jenny was her beautiful smile. She would have that smile no matter what was going on. She would always kid me. She was courteous and kind to all people she encountered in life," Edgecombe said. "She was a positive influence on many people. She was also very enthusiastic about growing in her career. The day she left this earth, a great void was left but at same time her legacy carries on. What a blessing and honor it was to know Capt. Jennifer Moreno.”
Retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Young, who served with Moreno that day in 2013, shared her feelings on Moreno and how she remembers her.
“Capt. Moreno was by any variation of the word tough. She was also very compassionate to those around her,” Young recalls. "She brought laughter and a good attitude to our team. We were working very hard for weeks on end to where we got comfortable with a fast pace. Deployments are taxing in every way, emotionally and physically.
“I know Capt. Moreno would have gone on to have a decorated career and helped people as many people as she could if he made it back to Madigan. She was by all accounts kind, yet strong enough to make it through the most difficult times. She died trying to save others. She gave her life selflessly that night. Her death would be recorded as Oct. 6, 2013. Ten years after the fact and I still deal with her loss constantly,” Young added.
“This was one of the biggest casualties of the war. I hope she is not forgotten and known for what she really was, a hero.”
Editor's note: The Capt. Jennifer M. Moreno Clinic at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, is named for the late nurse.