“He told me, ‘You saved my life.’ I was taken back by what he said and the change in him. Examples like that gives me the drive to continue what I’m doing, knowing I am making a difference,” Urena said.
One of his goals as commissioner of Veteran’s Services is to visit every public housing project in Boston by the end of the year, looking for veterans. During one of his visits to an apartment building, he found a veteran who had been living there for two months and was sleeping on the floor.
“I was able to provide him furniture, but I was so upset that the managers don’t know who we are,” Urena said.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Urena moved to Lawrence at age 4. He attended the Tarbox School before moving to Florida. He joined the Marines the day after graduating from Broward High School in 1998.
Urena said he always wanted to join the military “to serve our country” which he learned from being in the Boy Scouts.
Urena has a bachelor’s degree in history and legal studies from UMass Lowell and an associate’s degree in political science from Northern Essex Community College. He is pursuing a master’s degree part-time, in public affairs, at the UMass Boston.
Now, Urena devotes his time to serving veterans — a new mission that demands all his focus.
“(I am) very focused on not falling short on that mission,” Urena said. “There’s more than can be done is my mantra.”
He also appreciates the support he receives from family members and friends who know that his life revolves around his work.
In addition to spending time with family and his girlfriend Jen Siegler, he enjoys playing with his Fox Terrier Tucker, skiing and going to the beach. His real passion is kayaking, a hobby he said that he picked up after getting involved with the Greater Lawrence Boating program.