Children who grow up in small towns like Devine are blessed with community roots and camaraderie often envied by those who don’t have that; or, they just don’t know what they’ve missed. Peggy Allen Urbano knows. She grew up here in Devine and attributes the things she has accomplished in life to the foundations built there. Her class was the graduating class of 1981 with 67 seniors. “We all knew each other and our families,” she recalls. And, Peggy recognizes that many of her classmates have become successful in a variety of careers. “It is very humbling to be a part of such a successful group of individuals,” she states.
Peggy’s memories include such pleasant times as “swimming in the summer at the golf course pool, playing outside all day until dark, playing sports, being in the band, Friday night football, and the drive-in theater,” where she got her first job. The drive-in is where she remembers, “Free movies, the concession counter, Dust to Dawn events, and where every teenager in a 20-mile radius would end up.”
But, there are also some poignant, sad memories. Peggy says her senior year was a difficult time. She had just lost her best friend, Leslie Ann Dooley, in a car accident. “Leslie and I were like sisters. There wasn’t a day that went by that we were not together,” she says. Peggy vacationed at the Frio every summer with the Dooleys, and Leslie’s home was Peggy’s second home. “It took years for me to find peace with losing her.” Then, to make matters worse, during this time, Peggy’s parents got divorced, and she moved in her senior year to New Iberia, LA, and graduated in a class of 697… “with people I did not know and I missed my hometown and its people more than anything.”
Following graduation, Peggy studied pre-med at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette. While there, she started a small local newspaper, and adds, “Thank you, Mrs. Gardner/Devine Journalism.” This was a monthly, 30-page tabloid that focused on what was going on in the area. She sold advertisements for the paper to pay for its cost, and she had volunteers that wrote articles for each edition. Receiving press passes to all the area events was a bonus.
When Peggy’s father passed away in 1983, she sold her newspaper and moved back to Texas, putting her schooling on hold. At this time, she met Urban Urbano and married. Then, for the next few years, Peggy worked at a variety of jobs, including The San Antonio Light and as an Academic Counselor at Career Point College. Also, because her husband was – and still is – a professional musician, Peggy began to dabble in music. She says that she became good enough as a vocalist and drummer to make a living while playing professionally.
The path of professional entertainment is sometimes financially stable, and sometimes not. So, in order to continue to play music, Peggy supplemented her income by working as a waitress and bartender. Then, when she became pregnant with her first child, she made a serious career change. Alana Urbano was born in 1990, and when she was 18 months old, Peggy went back to college.
Peggy realized that becoming a nurse was something that she had always wanted. So, she completed her prerequisites and applied for nursing school. At that time, it was not easy to get accepted, as there were waiting lists, sometimes up to 15 months. Nevertheless, with determination, Peggy applied to them all and was accepted at Victoria College in Seguin.
For the next two years, Peggy drove from the south side of San Antonio to Seguin, getting up at 4 am to leave by 5 and get to her clinicals by 6 every morning. “The intensity of studying, having a small child, and commuting every day got to me,” she admits. But, looking at the newspaper and seeing all the classified ads for nurses in the area kept her motivated until she graduated.
Peggy’s first nursing job was at Christus Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital where she worked in the Pediatric I.C.U. for several years. Then, she transferred to the Children’s Emergency Room as an E.R. nurse. Over the course of her nursing career, Peggy has done transport, labor and delivery, psych, med surgery, recovery, home health, telephone triage, and even served as adjunct faculty at St. Phillips College of Nursing as a part time job for two years while still working at the E.R.
As her nursing career grew, Peggy says that so did her family. Hailey Jo was born in 1997, and Ian Louis in 1999. Then, in November of 2000, she decided to take her nursing along a different path. She says that both her husband and she came from military families, and for many years she regretted not joining the military right out of high school. Still, “I had this strong desire to be part of something bigger than myself,” she claims. So, she spoke with a recruiter, and, after many months of getting paperwork through and the physicals completed, her commissioning date was set for September 11, 2001. Because this was to be a special day and a huge decision for the family, she asked to move the commission date to September 13 so that family members could attend and watch her swear in.
Then, 9-11 happened. Family and friends “were terrified;” most of them tried to talk her out of commissioning; some were even angry that she would be placing herself in danger with small children at home. Her husband, however, encouraged her to follow her heart. Thus, Peggy was commissioned on September 13, 2001, as a 1st Lt. During the next two years; she was mobilized for “Enduring Freedom” and would spend the next 18 months training and teaching Army Combat Medics trauma and battlefield medicine.
Peggy has had many assignments within the army during her eighteen-year career. She has worked in Combat Support Hospitals, U.S. Army Hospitals, Battalions, Brigades and Human Resource Command at Ft. Knox, KY, and at the Army Nurse Corps. She has traveled all over the world and lived in a variety of places.
One of her favorite experiences Peggy recalls happened early in her career at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels, Germany. The mission was a Global Simulation exercise for over 7000 service members. All U.S. services, Italian, Germany, French, Canadian, and South African forces participated. The focus was on improving readiness by developing soldiers, their leaders, and units in support of the Global War on Terrorism. There were simulated combat training exercises across a full spectrum of operations. Peggy says that this experience was something totally different from the battlefield nursing with which she had been so familiar. She elaborates, “It took me out of my comfort zone and taught me how to be a strategic and operational leader on an entire different level.” What is more, Peggy says that she made lifelong friends from all around the world, friends with whom she still keeps in contact today.
As Peggy grew in her career, she had to advance in her military and civilian education – both a must as an officer. She has earned her Master’s Degree in Nursing and has completed numerous military schools throughout her career. Her latest was Command and General Staff College. Her next will be Army War College. And, along the way, she has earned numerous medals: 4 MSMs (Meritorious Service Medal), 2 ARCOMs (Army Commendation Medal), 2 AAMs (Army Achievement Medal), 1 NDSM (National Defense Service Medal), 1 ASUA (Army Superior Award), 1 ASR (Army Service Ribbon), 1 ARCOT(Army Reserves Comp Overseas TRNG Ribbon), 1 AFRMM (Armed Forces Reserve Medal), and 1 GWOT (Global War on Terror Service Medal).
As a Lieutenant Colonel, Peggy says that in her career she has been fortunate to have had several mentors who have helped her become the officer she is today, and she is passing it along to others in return. And, in her many nursing assignments within the army, taking care of soldiers is her passion. “Being part of the team that is able to save the life of the young soldier who has been pulled off of the battle field with injuries is an honor,” Peggy states.
Peggy is currently assigned at the U.S. Pentagon in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for personnel and Readiness as the Assistant Director, Reserve and Medical Manpower. She explains that this position is a nominated one in which she was selected from among others in the same rank and experience. “I was fortunate to be selected,” Peggy humbly states. Her role is to assist in creating Medical Policy for all Military Services and represent the Director of Military Personnel and Policy in eight committees, Co-Chair five, and serve as a voting member of the remaining three.
“Walking the corridors of the Pentagon is extremely humbling,” Peggy says. “Over 30,000 military and civilians work here in the Puzzle Palace. It is not uncommon to see the Secretary of Defense walking the Halls or even the President arriving by helicopter with his security guards. Every day as I walk into the building I can see the top of the White House and the Washington Monument.” And Peggy adds, “I would never have dreamed when I was a newly graduated nurse in 1994 that my career path would bring me here, to the Pentagon, where so many patriots have walked these same corridors.”
Serving in the military, Peggy explains, is not easy. It means moving the family every two-three years, time away from home, and late night work. She adds that none of it could have been done without the strong support of the loved ones in her life. But, she affirms, “Joining the military was the best thing that I could have ever done. Serving my country and serving as a nurse has truly been an honor.
And, to be sure, when asked where she’s from, Peggy proudly says that she grew up in Devine, Texas.