President Biden Signs Rep. Mike Levin’s Bipartisan Bill to Rename the San Diego VA Medical Center after Woman Veteran
Washington, D.C. – Today, President Joe Biden signed U.S. Representative Mike Levin’s (D-CA) legislation to rename the San Diego Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center after U.S. Army CPT Jennifer M. Moreno, a highly-decorated combat veteran from San Diego who was killed in action during a deployment to Afghanistan in October 2013. The San Diego VA Medical Center will now become the first VA facility in the nation named after a woman veteran of color.
In November 2020, Rep. Levin convened a panel of highly qualified servicemembers, veterans, and community leaders to collaborate on recommendations to rename the San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center after a woman veteran. The panel included a wide variety of local stakeholders from organizations like the American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Disabled American Veterans, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, and was led by Army Veteran and Carlsbad resident Karin Brennan. Last year, the panel released a report with recommendations to rename the San Diego VA Medical Center after CPT Moreno and rename a facility within the VA Medical Center after U.S. Navy CAPT Kathleen M. Bruyere, a longtime San Diego resident who helped shape the military’s policies on sexual discrimination and was instrumental in expanding opportunities for women in the Navy.
“I am thrilled that the San Diego VA Medical Center will now help give women servicemembers and veterans the recognition they deserve by proudly using Army CPT Jennifer M. Moreno’s name,” said Rep. Levin. “CPT Moreno is a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms, and her legacy has inspired many young women to pursue military service. It was my honor to join President Biden today to recognize her service and sacrifice, as well as the history being made now that the San Diego VA Medical Center will become the first VA facility in the nation named after a woman veteran of color. I am also deeply grateful for the thought and effort a panel of local veterans, led by Karin Brennan, made in recommending distinguished local veterans who are worthy of this recognition. Most of all, I want to thank CPT Moreno’s family for their support throughout this process. I know visitors to the CPT Jennifer Moreno VA Medical Center will find an enormous sense of pride in seeing her name on their doors.”
The panel selected CPT Jennifer Moreno, who was born in San Diego and was raised in Logan Heights by her single mother after the early loss of her father. Moreno was deployed to Afghanistan in June 2013 with the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, where she was attached to a joint special operations task force as a Cultural Support Team member. Just three months into her first tour, while on a night mission in Kandahar Province to capture a high-value target, four explosive devices were triggered. Moreno endured these explosive devices, including a suicide explosive at a range of no more than 25 meters. As Moreno made her way to help a fallen soldier, she triggered a fifth explosion, which tragically ended her life on October 6, 2013. Moreno was the first Nurse Cultural Support Team member to die in action, and part of her legacy is the number of young women coming from medical fields, seeking out voluntary assignments to join the Cultural Support Team. Jennifer Moreno was promoted posthumously to Captain and was the first combat casualty to be buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego since the Post-9/11 conflicts began, receiving full military honors.
The panel also recommended that a prominent space within the San Diego VA Medical Center be named after U.S. Navy Captain Kathleen M. Bruyere, a longtime San Diego resident who helped shape the military’s policies on sexual discrimination and was instrumental in expanding opportunities for women in the Navy. In 1977, Bruyere joined five other women officers who sued the United States Secretary of the Navy and the United States Secretary of Defense over restrictions that prevented women from serving on combat aircraft and ships. This led to the 1948 Women's Armed Services Integration Act being struck down as unconstitutional, overturning a ban on women serving at sea. In 1987, as Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations for women's policy, Bruyere helped conduct an examination of the status of Navy women, including career opportunities and complaints of sexism. The study led to 9,000 sea-duty and command jobs opening up for women on 24 combatant ships. Bruyere retired from the Navy as a Captain after 28 years of service in 1994, and in 2020 she passed away and was buried at Miramar National Cemetery with full military honors. Levin’s bill expresses the sense of Congress that VA should follow through with the panel’s recommendation to honor Captain Bruyere.
The bill is cosponsored by the entire California delegation in the House of Representatives, and in January the entire California congressional delegation sent a letter to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in support of the bill. The bill passed both chambers unanimously. Text of the legislation is available here, and the panel’s full report is available here.