By Mr. Wallace McBride (Fort Jackson)June 1, 2017
There were a lot of familiar faces at C.C. Pinckney Elementary School last week. For two days, children lined the halls, gymnasium, library and cafeteria, dressed as famous figures from history.
Prepared to share their life stories with visitors were former president Barack Obama, Robin Williams, Albert Einstein, Michael Jackson and Capt. Jennifer M. Moreno.
The latter received a few confused looks from children and parents, who stopped to hear student Ian
Nunez, 8, tell Moreno's life story.
Moreno was one of four Soldiers killed Oct. 6, 2013, in Afghanistan, when her unit was attacked with
an improvised explosive device. A nurse assigned to Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington,
Moreno was with an Army Special Operations Command cultural support team on her first deployment at the time of her death.
Moreno and Ian's mother, Raquel Coronado, had been friends since high school.
"Ian wanted to do Pat Tillman," Coronado said. "I talked to some of the other moms, and found out
their sons were doing Pat Tillman. I asked him, 'What about my friend?'"
A primary care clinic at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, his named in Moreno's honor, she said, as well as a bench outside Madigan Army Medical Center dedicated to her. Coronado asked the school if there would be any conflict with Ian choosing a less-visible hero to recognize.
"I also asked Ian if he would be uncomfortable portraying a female hero," she said. "He said, 'Why
The Family first discussed dressing him in hospital scrubs, but decided instead on Army fatigues because of the date of the event was so close to Memorial Day.
"We were looking for the current Army uniform, the OCPs, but all of the Clothing and Sales (stores)
had ACU patterns," she said. "We tried to get the badges and make it as realistic as we possible could."
"Some people asked me if she was my sister," Ian said. "I just wanted to make her proud.
"Women can be heroes, too," he said.
Coronado and Moreno went to high school together for four years in San Diego. "We were in the JROTC program together," she said. "We spent a lot of time together. We did competitions, we did summer camp, the cadet picnic ... we became a little family and just kept in touch."
"We were proud of her. She came out of a really rough neighborhood, where guns and violence and
drugs were very big. The chances of us going to a college, or even considering college, were very low."
The Army, Coronado said, offered Moreno a ticket out of that life.
Coronado, who was brought to America illegally when she was just four years old, had to take a different path. Parole in Place allows spouses, parents and minor children of U.S. citizens to apply for adjustment of status and remain in the United States. For a time, it appeared that Coronado might be sent back to Mexico, a country she hardly remembers, but her husband's military status bought them time.
"It was Juarez," said Coronado's husband, Staff Sgt. Yancey Nunez, a drill sergeant with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment. "It was the drug cartel capital of the world, and they were killing people night and day there. The Army wouldn't let me go to that place, and she would have had to go for an indefinite amount of time. We couldn't take that chance, so we applied for Parole in Place which let us do the interview in the U.S. We got her green card in seven
years in Colorado."
"My desire was always to join the military," she said. "But, because of my status, I had to put that dream away. Through the Army Parole in Place (program) for military Families, I became a legal resident. Within a year, I'll become a U.S. citizen."