El Paso County’s Veterans Service Office honored Leo F. Martinez as the recipient of the inaugural Veteran of the Year at a ceremony on Thursday at the El Paso County Veterans Monument in Bear Creek Regional Park.

“El Paso County is home to more than 98,000 veterans, who have honorably served our country protecting our freedoms,” said Darryl Glenn, President of the Board of El Paso County Commissioners. “Veterans are involved in every aspect of our county.”

District Attorney Dan May worked with Martinez during his time as a peer mentor in Veterans Trauma Court. May said, “We live in one of the best countries on this planet. And as you look around today, you can see we live in one of the best communities in this country. It’s because of the individuals we have. We have people in every community that make a difference in people’s lives. Leo Martinez is one of those people. He has dedicated his life to this community and to this country.”

“I am both proud and humbled by this honor,” Martinez said. “I am proud to be chosen as the first Veteran of the Year. And humbled by the knowledge I know many, many veterans more deserving than I. I accept this on behalf of all of the men and women who pay it forward every day.”

“I have been honored to work with veterans in the Veterans Trauma Court and the professionals in the criminal justice system,” Martinez said. “I have learned far more from the veterans I have worked with, than I could ever teach them. They have been exceptional, inspirational and courageous. They are also fragile and damaged. They bare the wounds both internal and external from their service.”

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.

Martinez ended his remarks asking a request. “Be selective and reverent in the use of that word ‘hero.’ I think sometimes there is a tendency to use it too quickly and in a lazy manner among those who want to honor us by referring to us in that manner. Because if everyone is a hero, no one is a hero. And if everyone is a hero, how do we recognize those who have truly distinguished themselves by their actions and example? Not everyone who wears a uniform is a hero. And not every hero wears a uniform.”

Martinez was born and raised in Springer, New Mexico. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1970 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. He served as an Infantry Senior Sergeant, an Administrative Specialist and a Command Sergeant Major.

The ceremony also included the presentation of the colors by the Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard and the national anthem sung by SPC Kayla Winslow, U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division Band from Fort Carson.

Veterans Services Office offers a sincere thank you to the 2017 event sponsors, Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, The Broadmoor, and the State of Colorado Division of Veterans Affairs.

We believe our veterans deserve our support and recognition for their exemplary military service, outstanding community service and endless encouragement to other local veterans. El Paso County will honor one veteran annually, for his or her efforts defending our country and continued willingness to serve their neighbors and community as Veteran of the Year.