El Paso County’s Veterans Service Office announced Duane K.L. France as the Veteran of the Year at a ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 3.
Duane K. L. France retired from the U.S. Army in 2014 and immediately began the next chapter of his life by supporting veterans that are impacted by mental health concerns at the local, state, and national level.
Duane currently serves as the Director of Veteran Services at the Family Care Center and the Executive Director of Colorado Veterans Health and Wellness Agency.
Duane has been recognized by the George W. Bush Institute of Service Initiatives, he is currently serving as a member of the Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program Scholar Program, the American Counseling Association’s Public Policy and Legislation Committee, Committee Chair of the Military and Government Counseling Association, an Advisory Board Member for the Peak Military Care Network, State Legislative Advisory Board Member for State Representative Lois Landgraf, and Policy and Legislation Committee Member of the Colorado Counseling Association. He also serves on the National Collaborative for Suicide Prevention.
Duane has published three books to support military, veterans, and their loved ones. These titles include Combat Vet Don’t Mean Crazy, Head Space and Timing, and Changing Your Point of View about Memorial Day.
Duane France was unable to attend, but his wife, Connie, accepted the award for him. Katie Civiletto, Program Manager for Give An Hour, read the acceptance speech for France.
“The Veteran of the Year is our way to honor an El Paso County Veteran for the contributions they have made helping other veterans and their families,” said Marshall Bosworth, El Paso County’s Veterans Services Officer. “All of the finalists are very deserving and we look forward to announcing the Veteran of the Year at this year’s ceremony.”
Three other nominees were present for the ceremony, Joe V. Aldaz, Nanette Brédé Mueller and Charles G. Watkins. The ceremony was held at the Veterans Monument in Bear Creek Regional Park.
El Paso County’s Veterans Service Office announces Victor M. Fernandez is the 2018 Veteran of the Year.
Fernandez has been working on bringing the Pikes Peak National Veterans Cemetery to the region for the past several decades. He has been the driving force behind project, serving as Chair of the local cemetery committee. This effort led to the purchase of a 350-acre site off of Drennan Road that will become the national cemetery for our veterans. This site will be sufficient to bury or intern 95,000 veterans and their spouses.
Fernandez has worked tirelessly with national, state and local leaders to ensure that the cemetery became a reality. This included securing legislative approval and the needed funding, reviewing multiple sites, making the final site selection, and initiating the design for the cemetery.
Now that the Pikes Peak National Cemetery is a reality and Fernandez has stepped down as chairman of the Cemetery Committee; The “Support Committee at Pikes Peak National Cemetery” has been established and will continue to support the Pikes Peak National Cemetery.
Fernandez is a lifelong Colorado resident, born and raised in Trinidad. His family has roots going back more than 150 years. His great grandfather fought in the Civil War. His father was a World War II veteran and his father-in-law served in the Pacific during World War II and was on General MacArthur’s staff during the Korean conflict, and is interred at Ft. Logan National Veterans Cemetery in Denver.
Fernandez graduated from West Point in the class of 1959 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the artillery. He met his wife Sherry at Fort Carson in 1960, where they were married in 1961.
During his thirty year military career, Fernandez served two tours in Panama, two in Vietnam, two in Germany, and a variety of stateside posts. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College and Army War College. His numerous military awards include the Defense Superior Service medal, the Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Defense and the Meritorious Service Medal.
Since retiring from the Army in 1989, Fernandez has remained active in Colorado Springs Veterans affairs, serving as President of the Pikes Peak Chapter of Military Officers of Association of America, founding member of the Southeast Family Center and Armed Services YMCA, founding member of the Board of Directors for the Home Front Cares, and Team Leader of a group welcoming our Hungry Heroes airplanes returning from the combat theaters in Iran and Afghanistan.
El Paso County’s Veterans Service Office announces Leo F. Martinez is the recipient of the inaugural Veteran of the Year honor.
Martinez was born and raised in Springer, New Mexico. He enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduating from Springer High School. He earned degrees from Saint Martin’s College (Olympia, WA) and Regis University (Colorado Springs). His military career took him to Korea, Fort Lewis (WA), Germany and Fort Carson. He retired from in the U.S. Army after a distinguished career of 21 years and 10 months, 1970 to 1993. He served as an Infantry Senior Sergeant, an Administrative Specialist and a Command Sergeant Major.
Martinez recently retired as a peer mentor for the Fourth Judicial District’s highly successful Veterans Trauma Court. He recruited, trained and supervised other veterans to act as mentors and provide one-on-one support for individuals going through the Veterans Court.
Carl McDaniel, El Paso County Veteran Service Officer, said, “One of the community participants in the selection summed it up best, ‘While Leo Martinez’s work is focused on only one program—Veterans Trauma Court—based on all the testimonials, he has made a difference in the lives of many veterans who have gone through the court.’”
District Attorney Dan May said, “Much of the success of the Veterans Trauma Court is due to the commitment of Leo Martinez to the Veterans of this community. Leo is truly devoted to helping each and every Veteran he works with to ensure they are successful in their lives. If I could clone Leo we would have success in every problem solving court.”