AUGUST 26, 2019 – In the Dominican Republic in 1980, a young man named Romulo Urraca decided to pursue a U.S. green card, not knowing what life would hold for him. Like a raindrop striking the surface of a lake, this decision created a ripple outward that would end up changing the lives of hundreds of people, many of whom were not even born yet.
After ten years of working through process, he was finally granted the green card and was allowed to move to the United States to live and work. Over that waiting period, he had studied electrical engineering, so when he arrived in America, he started working in construction in New York City.
At work, Urraca would often see Navy recruiters walking by on the streets, talking to people and handing out business cards, and they caught his eye. He thought they looked sharp walking around in uniform, and he would picture himself in their place. After researching the opportunities the Navy held, he was surprised by what was possible, and it motivated him to take the next step.
“I have a different perspective on the military coming from the Dominican Republic,” said Urraca. “I did not believe it when I learned about all the benefits I could receive for serving my country; it was the opportunity to become somebody, the opportunity to become a hero and it was too good to be true.”
Six years after arriving in the U.S., Urraca raised his right-hand and said the oath of enlistment, entering the Navy as a Utilitiesman Feb. 6, 1996. He said he felt like he was doing the right thing for the country and for his future.
In 2001, he decided to go to a recruiting command for his shore duty tour. He received orders to recruit in New York City, which brought him full circle. “I felt like I was unlocking my full potential by becoming a recruiter,” said Urraca. It gave him a sense of purpose, and immediately after starting out, he met someone who showed him the importance of what he was doing.
“I met this kid when I got to New York, and he was not doing well,” said Urraca. “He was a high school dropout, and he was what many people would consider a lost cause. After talking with him, over time he decided to go back to school to get his G.E.D. (General Educational Development). After going to boot camp and attending his training school, he came back to the office in New York to say ‘thank you, you saved my life.’”
With family being very important to him, Urraca also focused on guiding those closest to him in the right direction. He mentored his nephew, Edgar Heredia, as he was growing up. Urraca said he noticed Heredia didn’t have much of a plan for his life. Urraca didn’t want him to end up like so many other people he knew who had stagnated after high school, so he brought him into the Navy.
Heredia is now a logistics specialist 1st class, and he is married with four kids. “My nephew has been stationed across the world and is preparing to retire from the Navy in two years; I’m so proud of him,” said Urraca.
Urraca didn’t stop there; his son, Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Johnatan Urraca, went into the Navy in 2012. Urraca says his son saw the comradery surrounding his dad, and he wanted to be a part of that while following his father’s example.
For that same reason, Johnatan decided to go into recruiting. “I initially started recruiting duty because of my dad,” he said. “I always saw how people would come back to thank him, and I wanted that for myself. I feel most gratified when a Future Sailor comes back from boot camp to thank me or even when I get those random phone calls from the parents thanking me for giving their child a brighter future. That is the best feeling.”
Johnatan currently works in Navy Recruiting District Miami, so he uses his background, his understanding of Hispanic culture and his ability to speak Spanish to connect with people. He says he cares deeply about helping people advance their lives. “I like to show the benefits the Navy can have for everyone close to the Sailor as well as them. I know firsthand how good it can be for the families as well,” said Johnatan.
Over the course of his life, Urraca hasn’t just improved his own circumstances, but he has also done everything he can to lift up those around him. The effects of this selflessness and drive are seen in lives all across the country.
“I don’t let anything stop me,” said Urraca. “I don’t let my accent stop me, I don’t let my ethnicity stop me – nothing will stop me. I am going to be talking about the Navy until the day I die because the Navy changed my life; it changed the lives of my family, and I got to change so many other peoples’ lives through it.”
NRD Dallas encompasses 150,000 square miles that includes North Texas and Oklahoma. For more information on NRD Dallas, visit: http://www.cnrc.navy.mil/dallas/
Navy Recruiting Command consists of a command headquarters, three Navy Recruiting Regions, 18 Navy Recruiting Districts and eight Navy Talent Acquisition Groups that serve more than 1,330 recruiting stations across the world. Their combined goal is to attract the highest quality candidates to assure the ongoing success of America’s Navy.
Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary S Eshleman and Petty Officer 3rd Class Nolan Pennington
Navy Recruiting Command