El Paso County’s 2018 Veteran of the Year award is going to a man who, after a 30-year Army career, became the “driving force” to create the Pikes Peak National Veterans Cemetery, the county announced.

Victor M. Fernandez will be honored at a ceremony from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Veterans Monument at Bear Creek Regional Park.

As chairman of the local cemetery committee, Fernandez has worked for years with state and local leaders to choose a site, raise money and initiate design plans for the cemetery.

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The cemetery, off Drennan Road in the southeast part of the county, now is being completed and should begin operations next month, reports the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. The 375 acres will provide a resting place for up to 95,000 veterans, their spouses and eligible family members, the website says.

Fernandez, a Trinidad native, graduated from West Point in 1959 and became a second lieutenant in the artillery. He served two tours in Panama, two in Vietnam, two in Germany and at stateside posts. His military honors include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Bronze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal.

Since retiring from the Army in 1989, he was president of the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Military Officers of Association of America, is a founding member of the YMCA’s Southeast & Armed Services location and served on the board of The Home Front Cares.

The county’s first Veteran of the Year award went to Leo Martinez in 2017.

“The idea of Veteran of the Year was suggested by former El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark,” said a statement from Marshall Bosworth, county veterans services officer. “This is a way to honor veterans in the El Paso County community for their contributions in helping Veterans and their family members.”

For more information about Thursday’s ceremony, contact Jennifer Clark at 520-7750 or jenniferclark@elpasoco.com.

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