December 30, 2013 12:00 PM

The Women Who Served

In 2013 the military lifted its ban on females joining in combat—but American women have always served in conflict zones. Among the U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom casualties in Afghanistan are seven women, dedicated service members who had also enjoyed busy lives as daughters, wives, mothers, students, athletes and cherished friends.


Eugene Michael Aguon, 23

Ember Marie Alt, 21

Kenneth Clifford Alvarez, 23

Barrett Lyle Austin, 20


Jeffrey Christopher Baker, 29

George Allen Bannar Jr., 37

Thomas Allen Baysore Jr., 31

Aaron Roy Blanchard, 32

Steven Patrick Blass, 27

Joshua James Bowden, 28

Jared William Brown, 20

William Dewitt Brown III, 44

Larry Dolan Bunn, 43

Nicholas Brian Burley, 22


Michael Christopher Cable, 26

Kevin Cardoza, 19

David James Chambers, 25

Eric Damon Christian, 39

Todd John Clark, 40

Hilda Ivelis Clayton, 22

Jeremiah Michael Collins Jr., 19

Sara Marie Knutson Cullen, 27

Brandon Lee Cyr, 28


Mitchell Kirk Daehling, 24

Jonathan Dale Davis, 34

Richard Andrew Dickson, 24

Christopher Re’Shawn Drake, 20


Derek Lee Edinger, 25

Robert Wayne Ellis, 21


Daniel Neil Fannin, 30

Dwayne Westfall Flores, 22


Corey Edwin Garver, 26

Jonathan Shelby Gibson, 32

William Joseph Gilbert, 24

Keith Erin Grace Jr., 26

Christopher O’Bryan Grant, 20

James Floyd Grissom, 31

James Edison Groves III, 37


Patrick Christopher Hawkins, 25

Bryan James Henderson, 27

Octavio Herrera, 26

Robert Joseph Hess, 26

Jamar Avery Hicks, 22

Jonathon Michael Dean Hostetter, 20


Justin Rasard Johnson Sr., 25

Landon Le Jones, 35


Brandon James Landrum, 26

Randall Ray Lane, 43

Eric Timothy Lawson Sr., 30

Jaimie Elizabeth Leonard, 39

Todd James Lobraico Jr., 22

Angel Luis Lopez, 27


Herman Mackey III, 30

Anthony Ranel Maddox, 22

Charles Patrick McClure, 21

Timothy Raymond McGill, 30

Errol Duran Aster Milliard, 18

William Robert Moody, 30

Jennifer Madai Moreno, 25

Sean William Mullen, 39

Thomas Paige Murach, 22


Liam Jules Nevins, 32

Stephen Michael New, 29

Rob Lee Nichols, 24

Reid Kijiro Nishizuka, 30

Caryn Elaine Nouv, 29


Michael Harold Ollis, 24


Cody James Patterson, 24

Andrew Michael Pedersen-Keel, 28

Joseph Michael Peters, 24

Francis Gene Phillips IV, 28

Robert Allan Pierce, 20

Christian Michael Pike, 31

Victoria Ann Pinckney, 27

Brandon Joseph Prescott, 24

David Tyler Proctor, 26


Patrick Howard Quinn, 26


Ray Anthony Ramirez, 20

Mariano Martin Raymundo, 21

Curtis Scott Reagan, 43

Job Matthew Reigoux, 30

Trenton Lockard Rhea, 33

Forrest Warren Robertson, 35

Wilbel Alexander Robles-Santa, 25

Joe Abraham Nunez Rodriguez, 29

Justin Richard Rogers, 25

Matthew Paul Ruffner, 34

Jonam Josue Russell, 25


Javier Sanchez Jr., 28

Trinidad Santiago Jr., 25

Delfin Montemayor Santos Jr., 24

Timothy George Santos Jr., 29

Rex Lloyd Schad, 26

Mark Henry Schoonhoven, 38

Marc Anthony Scialdo, 31

Zachary Lee Shannon, 21

Michael Harrison Simpson, 30

Justin Lee Sisson, 23

Stefan Marc Smith, 24

Marek Andrzej Soja, 30

David Michael Sonka, 23

Tracy Lane Stapley, 44

James Michael Steel, 29

Kyle Pascal Stoeckli, 21

Joshua Jacob Strickland, 23

Cody Dalton Suggs, 22


Jesse Lamar Thomas Jr., 31

Robert Edward Thomas Jr., 24

Jason Togi, 24

Cody James Towse, 21

Lyle Dervin Turnbull, 31

Benjamin Wayne Tuttle, 19


Richard Lee Vazquez, 28

Alex Anthony Viola, 29

Mark Tyler Voss, 27


Tristan Mykal Wade, 23

Christopher Michael Ward, 24

Nickolas Shane Welch, 26

James Taylor Wickliffchacin, 22

Aaron Xavier Wittman, 28


Jarett Michael Yoder, 26

Ricardo Deandrell Young, 34


Sonny Christopher Zimmerman, 25

Capt. Jennifer Madai Moreno

San Diego

At the memorial service for Capt. Jennifer Moreno, 25, those gathered stood as a living legacy to her work as an Army nurse. “Many of Jennifer’s former patients were there,” says her friend Capt. Ryan Bautista. “She was amazing at her job and filled with compassion.” Having served in a surgical unit, Moreno then volunteered for the Army’s Cultural Support Program, reaching out to Afghan women. Killed Oct. 6 by an enemy IED, Moreno was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, among other distinctions. Says Bautista: “Jennifer had a true passion for life and for her work. And always with a smile.”

Capt. Sara Knutson Cullen

Eldersburg, Md.

Bill and Lynn Knutson were surprised when daughter Sara told them she hoped to attend West Point Military Academy after high school. But the couple supported Sara—a class vice president, a fan of fashion and a competitive dancer—with a Sept. 10, 2001, campus visit. The events of the following day solidified Sara’s resolve. “I plan to climb the mountain of life and never set foot on a path,” she wrote in her yearbook. Sara graduated from West Point in 2007 and later became a Black Hawk helicopter pilot. Flying was a passion; when she wed Army pilot Chris Cullen in November 2012, a helicopter topped their wedding cake. “Sara knew it was dangerous,” says Lynn. “But she said, ‘I didn’t join the Army to sit behind a desk.’ ” On March 11, Knutson Cullen, 27, was killed with four others in a training flight during a rainstorm near Kandahar. Her husband of four months, who had left the military to take a job in Afghanistan in order to be near her, accompanied her coffin back to the United States.

Spc. Hilda Ivelis Clayton

Augusta, Ga.

Army photographer Hilda Clayton, 22, saw war through a camera’s lens. On Dept. of Defense websites and in worldwide media, she “told the story of the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan,” wrote Col. Bill Benson in an open letter after her July 2 death in an explosion during an Afghan National Army training exercise. “She was willing to take on any mission and pursued every opportunity to tell our story.” Wrote husband Chase Clayton: “She passed doing what she loved for her country.”

Capt. Victoria Ann Pinckney

Palmdale, Calif.

The Air Force captain, 27, was “a real spark,” says grandfather Don Castro. She enjoyed rugby, karate, baking and volunteering at a homeless shelter. But Pinckney, who died when her refueling plane crashed in Kyrgyzstan on May 3, doted on her son Gabriel with husband Richard. “You couldn’t ask for a better mother,” says Castro. “Whenever we saw him with her, he was always bouncing, with a sweet and happy disposition like his mother.”

Spc. Ember Marie Alt

Killeen, Texas

Among her friends, Army Spc. Ember Alt, 21, was known for her goofy sense of humor. She spent her free time writing poetry about love or picking up a new instrument to master. “She was so talented,” says Imani Dunn, 22, a close friend from Killeen High School, where Ember had led the varsity track team to the state finals. Her plan had been to complete her service in August and enroll in art school, but on June 18 she was killed by small arms fire. “She kept telling me how excited she was to come home,” says Imani. “I am still so proud of her, but there is so much more she could have done.”

Sgt. Caryn Elaine Nouv

Newport News, Va.

Before she was adopted at age 7 by Richard and Judy Reynal, Caryn Nouv spent years in foster care, including with Richard’s relatives Rev. John and Mary Ward. Mary still recalls the day that Caryn arrived at their home. “She stood on our front porch with a little knit cap on her head and a grocery bag filled with her possessions,” she says. “It was like something out of Oliver Twist.” After a turbulent childhood, the Army provided Nouv, 29, with some structure in her life. A mother of two boys (who are now being raised by the Reynals), Nouv was on one of her last missions as an Army convoy escort driver when enemy forces attacked her vehicle on July 27. “Like a lot of children who had a rough beginning, she was always looking for stability and love,” says Mary, whose husband presided at Nouv’s funeral. “She was still searching. She knew her work was dangerous, but she really worked to be a good soldier.”

Lt. Col. Jaimie Elizabeth Leonard

Warwick, N.Y.

Lt. Col. Jaimie Elizabeth Leonard, 39, knew she would go to West Point from the time she attended basketball camp there in seventh grade. “She started preparing as early as she could. She would do chin-ups in our backyard,” says her sister Elizabeth Leonard Harman. In a more than 16-year Army career, Leonard earned many honors, including three bronze stars for heroism, merit or meritorious service in a combat zone. But her five siblings learned the extent of her achievements only after Leonard was killed by gunfire in Zarghun Shahr, Afghanistan, on June 8. “She was so determined but so modest at the same time,” says Harman, who recalls once asking her sister if she was scared to deploy. Leonard responded, “Would you want someone on your front line being scared?”

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