WALLINGTON, N.J. — Brother and sister Victor and Margarita Urgiles both of Wallington say they would not be where they are today if it were not for the U.S. military.
The children of Ecuadorian immigrants — now neighbors — both elected to forgo a costly college education in hopes of finding more opportunity in the armed forces.
"My parents came to this country, and all they did was work to support us and help us get a great education.
"But when my older sister went to college, I saw how hard she was struggling to pay for it," said Margarita of her decision to join the Army after graduating from Kearny High School in 1998.
Margarita, 35, would spend four years on active duty and on deployment to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait along the way.
In 2002, she transitioned into the National Guard to be able to attend school and get a degree paid for by the military.
She eventually worked her way into a full-time role with the Guard and earned her bachelor's from Rutgers in 2005.
Margarita then transitioned into the military's officer program and earned the rank of second lieutenant when she received her bachelor's.
In 2008, Margarita was deployed to Iraq along with her brother, who had joined the Marines out of high school in 2006.
"He saw how good the military had been to me," Margarita said of her brother's decision. The two both served in Iraq for a year before returning to school.
In between deployments to Norway and Africa, Victor earned his bachelor's in criminal justice. Margarita earned her master's in psychology in 2014.
He is also in the Army Reserve. Margarita is a battalion training officer at the Teaneck National Guard Armory and is closing in on 20 years of military service.
Victor, 28, said the Marines taught him many important values.
"I learned to help the man next to me, and that it is not about what I accomplish, but what we all accomplished as a team," he said.
"Our entire family is very grateful for the military because they have really developed who I am and who my brother is," Margarita said.
"I don't know where we would be without that experience."
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