SAN DIEGO - The Pentagon Tuesday released the name of four Army soldiers, including a 25-year-old San Diego woman, who were killed when their unit was attacked by enemy forces using an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
Army 1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno, of San Diego, died Sunday in Zhari, along with Sgt. Joseph M. Peters, 24, of Springfield, Mo, Pfc. Cody J. Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Ore., and Sgt. Patrick C. Hawkins, 25, of Carlisle, Pa.; according to a Defense Department statement released Tuesday morning.
Moreno was assigned to the Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis- McChord, Wash; Hawkins and Patterson were both assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga; and Peters was assigned to the 5th Military Police Battalion, Vicenza, Italy.
Their unit was attacked in Zhari, Afghanistan when enemy forces used an IED.
Moreno was in Afghanistan because she volunteered to be a member of a cultural support team with a special operations task force.
She grew up in Logan Heights with her mother, two sisters and a brother who is also in the Army. The same family is now being dealt a double blow.
Here's why: A death gratuity of $100,000 traditionally is paid to the family within three days of a soldier's death for funeral and burial expenses. But with the partial government shutdown, there is no authority now to pay the money.
"We fly our families out to Dover, Del. when the flag-draped coffin comes in on a C-130 from Afghanistan. The family is there to meet with their loved ones so they can see them taken off of the airplane. None of those things are being paid right now," said local Rep. Duncan Hunter, who represents California's 50th District.
Hunter spoke with 10News from his office in Washington. D.C. He says that he is outraged not only as a congressman but also as a Marine combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, Hunter sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel saying that he is disturbed. He explains that Congress and the president passed a bill last week saying there would be no disruption in pay and allowances for the men and women serving in uniform and their families.
"This is a bureaucratic DOD (Department of Defense) decision to not allow these benefits to our fallen heroes' families," Hunter added.
In the letter, he wrote, "I am at a loss about why the Department of Defense did not take a more active role in notifying Congress and insisting that changes in law occur immediately."
Hunter hopes the changes will take place within the next 24 hours.
"It's despicable to play politics with this type of thing," he said. "There's a lot of ways you can do it … you can close a World War II Memorial and do stuff like that but this is despicable."
California Gov. Jerry Brown said Moreno "bravely gave her life in service to our state and nation," and ordered that flags be flown at half- staff at the Capitol in Sacramento in her honor Tuesday.