WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Northern Manhattan paid tribute to a fallen soldier Sunday afternoon, by naming an intersection after a 23-year-old Army sergeant from the neighborhood who was killed while fighting in Iraq.
Dozens of family members, friends and well-wishers packed the southwest corner of Audubon Avenue and 177th Street to witness the renaming of the intersection to Sgt. Jose Enrique Ulloa Way.
An emotional, hourlong ceremony brought together Ulloa's sister, City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat.
"There's not a street co-name [that] will bring back Sgt. Ulloa," Rodriguez said before the street sign was unveiled. "But at least we can celebrate in our community the contribution of talented young people who are here to be part of the history of the United States."
"We are a better community when we come together and this is a beautiful way to show [Sgt. Ulloa] respect," Rosa added.
Ulloa grew up in an apartment on Audubon Avenue. He attended Washington Irving High School and then joined the Army. He was stationed in Germany as a truck driver for the 515th Transportation Company, and in 2005, volunteered to go to Iraq when an undermanned unit asked for volunteers.
"He was the only one to raise his hand," Espaillat said.
Ulloa was killed on Aug. 9, 2008 when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Sadr City, Iraq. He is survived by his wife Melanie and 6-year-old son, Steven.
Ulloa's sister, Stephanie, tearfully recalled her brother's last week, saying she spoke on the phone with him every day.
"He called every single night," Ulloa, 25, said. "He called just to say hi and make sure we were OK."
Ulloa was "larger than life" and fiercely protective of his family, his sister said. He had wanted to join the Army since he was a child.
"It's not difficult to understand why he ventured out into that terrible war," Stephanie Ulloa said. "He would have set any thoughts of his safety aside and gone, and that's exactly what he did."