ANDOVER — Francisco Urena, who held a veterans' affairs job in Lawrence and statewide, has a new job leading the MassGOP  Veterans Coalition for the state's Republican Party. 

Former four-term state representative and current Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons of Andover selected Urena for the job.

"Francisco is a dedicated Massachusetts veteran and quite frankly a war hero, but he's the last guy that will tell you that," Lyons said in a statement released by the MassGOP. 

"He has honorably served our commonwealth, he's a proud Republican, and we're lucky to have him joining us," he continued. 

Urena joins fellow co-chairmen John MacDonald and Adam Hogue leading the coalition. 

Urena, the former state veterans director, resigned from the post following the deaths of 76 elderly veterans from COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldier's Home last spring. 

He has also served as veterans service officer for the cities of Lawrence and Boston.

A Marine, Urena was a tank commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom and was awarded for the Purple Heart for wounds sustained during combat. 

In early June, a veterans group demanded Gov. Charlie Baker apologize to Urena for the way he was treated over the Holyoke Soldiers Home COVID-19 deaths and investigation. 

Veterans Assisting Veterans, a Merrimack Valley-based nonprofit, said that a recent report by the Boston Globe “vindicates ... Urena regarding his role at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.”

The article showed that the Lawrence native “was used as a scapegoat for the protection of the Baker administration. As a result, his resignation caused severe damage to his reputation and livelihood," according to a statement from the veterans group. 

Urena said previously he was unable to comment because of pending civil litigation against him resulting from the tragedy at the nursing home.

The newspaper article mimics some of the findings of a joint Senate-House committee co-chaired by Methuen state Rep. Linda Dean Campbell. The legislative committee interviewed more than 30 people involved at the home over the course of eight public hearings in preparation for a 181-page report released last week.

The report, Campbell said, “clearly indicates that information was presented” to Baker and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, but that the information was “not acted upon.”

Based on information contained in the Globe article, the veterans’ group said, “The deaths of veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home are tragic and could have been avoided had the governor favored professionalism and skills in his choice to oversee the facility, rather than political patronage and nepotism.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter@EagleTribJill

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