Arizona soldier goes from the battlefield to Veteran’s Day parade
PHOENIX — It has been an incredible journey for an American soldier, from the football field to the battlefield, to being a grand marshal in the Phoenix 2014 Veteran’s Day parade next week.
Retired Army Maj. Ernie Urquieta grew up in Superior, Arizona and was briefly a linebacker at the University of Arizona before a knee injury ended that dream. He joined the military in 1988.
“I went to the Marines, and they said, ‘No, your knees are bad.’ I went next door to the Army, and they said, ‘We’ll take you,” Urquieta said.
And for the next 26 years he served our country with numerous combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He received two Bronze Stars and one with V for Valor, but he lost many friends along the way.
“Memories I have of my soldiers I can’t talk about without getting sentimental and emotional. Losing soldiers that never had an opportunity to live a life,” Urquieta said. “Between the ages of 18 to 24 who never got married and had kids, some never had girlfriends. This will be to honor them.”
Urquieta is among this year’s grand marshals for the Veterans Day parade. His cousin Daniel Ochoa nominated him, and he is honored.
“Big honor. At first I was like why?” Urquieta said. “But I thought about it, and said what a great way to represent the soldiers I’ve lost.”
The major retired last month after countless operations on his knees and shoulder due to shrapnel and a gunshot. He is ready to begin the second half of his life.
“(I’m) looking forward to being a better husband and person and contributing to the community that I live in,” Urquieta said.
His wife is extremely happy to have him home and will make sure he stays busy with chores around the home.
“I don’t know with my limited capabilities how much of honey do projects I’ll be able to do, but I’m trying to get them worked. It’s definitely a blessing to be with my son, who is 2,” Urquieta said.
“I’ve been with him for 63 days since he’s been alive. I’ve been in Missouri, and they’ve been in Arizona. My 6-year-old daughter is ecstatic.”