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Soldier from St. Thomas Announces Oscar Winner

Feb. 25, 2008 — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Oscars ceremony is always exciting, but likely never more so for Virgin Islanders than Monday night's presentations, when a Virgin Island soldier stood before the hundreds of celebrities packed into the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, and the millions viewing worldwide.
"I'm Alexandria Corneiro, a specialist from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and the Oscar goes to 'Freeheld,'" Corneiro said, perfectly poised, flashing a big smile from the giant screen onstage where she and four colleagues were filmed from Baghdad.
Her fellow service members announced the other nominated documentaries, but Corneiro got the winning hand, opening the envelope.
Tom Hanks announced the presentation, turning serious after a little fanfare.
"Lots of men and women we care deeply about, those who haven't been home in quite awhile, are part of the magic here tonight," he said. "Just down LaBrea to a little place we call Baghdad."
With that, the screen turned to Corneiro's 28th Public Affairs Detachment in Baghdad, where she and four other soldiers had been selected for the honors.
Newscaster Lee Carle spoke to Corneiro's father on Channel Eight evening news Monday. Eduardo Corneiro, an Education Department administrator, said his daughter called him Sunday to tell him the news.
"I was surprised," he said. He was also surprised when his daughter changed careers midstream.
"She had majored in biotech at college in New York," he said, "and all of a sudden she decided to go into the Army."
She has pursued a career in video and photojournalism overseas.
"In fact, you can Google her and see her videos," her father said.
The Oscar-winning documentary, "Freeheld," is a 38-minute film about the fight by a terminally ill woman, Laurel Hester, to transfer her pension to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree. The other nominees were "La Corona (The Crown)," "Salim Baba" and "Sari's Mother."
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