VICTOR M. FERNANDEZ NAMED VETERAN OF THE YEAR
The El Paso County’s Veterans Service Office honored Victor M. Fernandez Sept. 27 as the recipient of the second annual Veteran of the Year award.
Marshall Bosworth, El Paso County’s Veterans Services officer, said the Veteran of the Year designation is “a way to honor veterans in the El Paso County community for their contributions in helping veterans and their family members.”
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 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 30-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.
ENCOURAGING UPDATE ON COMMUNITY
EFFORT TO REDUCE TEEN SUICIDES
The Board of El Paso County Commissioners at its regularly scheduled meeting late last month received some encouraging news indicating that a community-wide collaborative effort to reduce teen suicides is beginning to make a positive difference. Commissioner Peggy Littleton, who also serves as member of the Board of Health, requested the update noting that the commissioners recognized September as National Suicide Prevention Month.
Over the past five years El Paso County has experienced rates of teen suicide that outpace both the state and national averages, an alarming statistic that led to the establishment of a Teen Suicide Prevention working group that includes more than 60 community partner agencies all working together to help teenagers become better equipped to cope with life’s inevitable pressures and disappointments.
“There have been two suicides in the age group 10-17 so far this year in El Paso County,” interim El Paso County Public Health Director Susan Whelan reported to commissioners. “By this same time last year there were 11 teen suicide deaths in El Paso County and we have averaged 14 each year over the last three years. This is encouraging news in a trend and we are very proud of this community’s efforts but we do not consider it a mission accomplished situation. Rather, we see this as evidence that we are responding to the crisis in a more effective manner and saving lives,” Whelan said.
Youth suicide is complex but five factors are commonly found:
• Drug or alcohol involvement.
• Family history of suicide.
• Parental divorce.
• Recent breakup with boyfriend or girlfriend.
• Recent argument or fight with parents.
A video of the Public Health report to the Board of County Commissioners can be viewed on the El Paso County YouTube channel at youtu.be/W8lIRhPTM9E.