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November 10, 2013

Veteran devotes energy to helping fellow vets

On this day when men and women who have served the country in the Armed Forces are honored, Lawrence’s Francisco Urena will go on television to promote the services and programs offered by his office, before heading off to Veterans Day events throughout Boston’s neighborhoods.

“This is a very special day,” said Urena, former director of Lawrence’s Veterans Services Department, before outgoing Boston Mayor Tom Menino appointed him Commissioner of Veterans Services for the City of Boston.

“This is a day to recognize and honor the service of veterans who are returning to our community and others who are among us,” said Urena, whose mother Ramona Montilla still lives in Lawrence.

Urena, 33, a Marine Corps veteran, was a tank commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In a clash with insurgents in the Anbar Province, Urena was struck in the face with flying glass and debris. He still has a piece of scrap metal in his cheek. He was awarded a Purple Heart in 2005. He spent eight years in the Marine Corps, mainly guarding U.S. embassies in Syria and Kyrgyzstan.

In Lawrence, Urena was instrumental in assisting the family of Staff Sgt. Alex Jimenez of Lawrence who was captured by insurgents in Iraq in May of 2007. His body was recovered 14 months later.

Urena had been Lawrence veterans director, as well as the sole member of the department, for just a few months when Jimenez was declared missing in action. Urena assisted Jimenez’ father Andy and other family members during the emotional months leading up to the recovery of his son’s body.

In 2008 he was named the state’s Veterans Services Director of the Year in part for his work with the Jimenez family.

As commissioner in Boston, Urena said he and his team of 14 staff members are responsible for taking care of the 20,000 veterans and their families who live in Boston, welcoming returning service men and women with a breakfast; hosting events honoring the service of veterans; representing the mayor at events and welcoming student veterans who move to Boston from other parts of the country so they can learn about the benefits and programs available to them through his office.

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