Veteran of The Year: 2018
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Veteran of The Year: 2018

  • By Gabrielle.Castaldo
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About the Veteran and His Service

Toribio “Toby” Urian was born and raised in the northwest side of Chicago and is happy to call it home after serving in the Army. Toby is making incredible impacts in the veteran community now, and it all was motivated by his journey throughout service and transition. As our 2018 Veteran of the Year, we want to share his story.

On September 11th, 2001, not knowing how the day would unravel he and his cousin enlisted at “MEPS” as planned. Realizing what was ahead, they prepared to ship out in October. He started his journey of service at Ft. Benning, GA. “Home of the Infantry.” There he was announced as the Platoon Honor Grad, awarding him as the best in his platoon due to his high performance and proven education in his field. Toby was active duty from 2001-04, and was in the National Guard from 2006-09.

From 2002-03, Toby was stationed in Friedberg, Germany. In 2003 he was deployed to Iraq ( OIF1 ) to replace the 3rd Infantry Division and occupy the city of Baghdad. As they were fortifying the city, they lived with almost no running water or electricity during the first year of this campaign. Finally, by approximately the 5th month, they were provided with showers and porta-potties. Their deployment was extended 4 months, which Toby noted were some of the roughest times, “we lost a lot of guys in those last few months when we were supposed to be home already.”

Toby’s Transition

The transition back to civilian life was extremely difficult for Toby. Personal hardships like loss of loved ones and divorce piled upon him, all while receiving minimal to no assistance from the VA during this transition. Feeling like he was adjusting all on his own, Toby described the experience as being “put back to civilian life while your mind, body, and body language are visibly going through total shock…you had to crawl through civilian life trying to figure out who you are again.” In 2010, there came a point where Toby felt like giving up almost taking his own life, but instead checked himself into the VA Psychiatric Ward for a week.

Founding New Era Veterans of Chicago

This all led to a turning point in Toby’s transition. He was motivated, telling us he “didn’t want other combat veterans to go through what he went through.” In January 2015, he made it his new year resolution to start a local group by reaching out to anyone he met in the National Guard, other veterans who had recently come home, as well as childhood friends who had served to start the exclusive group for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. His outreach was a success as 25 people showed up to the first meeting! This group grew, and Toby officially founded the New Era Veterans of Chicago.

About the Organization

Today this organization provides many services to their 55+ Iraq and Afghanistan veteran members. Specifically, they place vets into organized labor training programs, raise funds for veterans in need of job-related skills, provide advice and guidance for veterans attempting to get assistance from the VA, offer peer counseling for transitioning veterans, and host events for veteran families to help them understand the hardships that occur during the transition. The only ‘homework’ they ask of their members is to find another veteran and bring them to the next event. Toby is very honored of the wins the organization has had to date including “many successes of getting vets jobs and insurance, which gives them meaning and purpose. Letting them know that they too can provide, putting food on the table for their family.”

Creating Purpose

We asked Toby at the end of the conversation, how founding New Era Veterans of Chicago played a role in his own transition and in his life now. He had a really moving answer.

“You know, having family and a support system is what got me through my hardships after almost taking my life..helping others helps myself, that’s something I live by now…The brotherhood and being able to experience leading board and group really opened my eyes to a different level of leadership. It’s so rewarding and reminds me that, man I do have a purpose.’”

Now that the New Era Veterans of Chicago has grown, Toby mentioned how it is incredibly “rewarding to step back and watch other member’s step up and say look this is what I did, and how I got through my transition.”

Toby’s leadership and the success of New Era Veterans of Chicago has not gone unnoticed in the Chicago community. Not only has he been recognized as Chicago Veterans’ 2018 Veteran of the Year, but he also was nominated and invited to be a member of the Advisory Council for Chicago Veteran Affairs.

Thank you for your service, Toby! Chicago Veterans is so grateful to know and work with you. Let’s hear it for our Veteran of the Year!  

Learn more about New Era Veterans of Chicago, and the impact their making in our veteran community.