Boston’s Commissioner of Veterans’ Service Department Francisco Urena and Jennifer Siegler were married on Friday, August 15th in Lincoln, Massachusetts. The wedding was held at the Codman Estate, a historic home built in the 1700s.
Urena and Siegler met when Siegler was a loan officer for Santander Bank and Urena was seeking a loan to buy a home in East Boston. The couple quickly fell in love and bonded over their mutual enjoyment of the outdoors and dancing. Siegler, who originally hails from California and Urena moved to East Boston after serving as veterans commissioner in Lawrence.
Attending the wedding were family and friends including the former Mayor of Lawrence, Michael Sullivan and the City of Boston’s former Corporation Counsel William Sinnott. State Representative and Chair of Veterans Service Carlo Basile’s Chief of Staff Adrian Madaro, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and former Mayoral Liaison to East Boston Ernani DeAraujo and City Councilor Sal LaMattina staffer Camilo Hernandez, all from East Boston, also attended the couple’s nuptials.
Tapped by former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to serve as Veterans Commissioner in 2012,Urena has been hailed as young, energetic and full of good idea. Urena in many ways has restored dignity to the department marred by scandal. In 2011, before Urena arrived a former high-ranking official in the City’s Veterans Service Department admitted on to pocketing some $13,000 in City funds that were meant to serve sick, homebound veterans.
At the time Menino immediately began a restructuring of the department that included a far-reaching search that ultimately ended with the hiring of Urena in October 2011. Urena was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the U.S. when he was four years old. After graduating high school in Hollywood, Florida Urena joined the U.S. Marines. He was 17 years old when he joined and served eight years.
Urena did his first two tours at the U.S. Embassies in Syria and Kyrgyzstan. After his diplomatic security tours Urena served as a tank commander in Western Iraq. It was there that Urena participated in three major combat missions and received the Purple Heart for a wound he received while in battle. Urena was engaging a vehicle and as tank commander he had his head out making sure the engagement was done properly.
When the vehicle was deemed a threat by Urena and engaged an explosion caused shrapnel to ricochet back—hitting Urena in the face. He wanted to stay in the battle so he was patched up on the scene but after some bleeding and swelling it was found that Urena had shrapnel in his cheek that is still there today. After his tour in Iraq Urena left the Marines at the rank of Staff Sergeant and moved to Lawrence, Mass where his family had relocated from Florida. He was set to attend Minnesota State University on a scholarship but decided to delay his entrance into college.
The reason was his return from overseas coincided with the devastating Mother’s Day flood in Lawrence. Urena, always eager to help others, decided to stay and held city and state officials get the city back on its feet.
His work in community service soon led to working for the city. That involvement quickly led to Urena being named the head of Lawrence’s Veteran’s Service office. There, Urena was involved in the high profile disappearance of Spc. Alex Jimenez in Iraq.
“I was by the families side the whole time and helped them with their interviews and any other support they needed,” said Urena.
For that Urena was awarded the state’s Veterans’ Service of the Year Award. Then in 2011 his experience brought him to Boston after he received his degree in history, legal studies and political science from UMass Lowell.
When Menino was looking to shake up the city’s Veteran’s Service Department, Urena applied. His ideas and fresh new approach to an all but forgotten about department impressed Menino. After being hired Urena moved to East Boston, rolled up his sleeves and got to work. Since taking over the department, Urena began expanding the Veterans’ Services’ reach in communities. Some ways Urena has already expanded the department’s reach is through social networking like Facebook, community outreach campaigns and the website MassVetsAdvisor.org—a new search engine for veterans looking for benefits they may qualify for that Urena had a hand in creating.