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.

El Paso County Veterans Services Division and the Board of El Paso County Commissioners announces retired US Army Command Sergeant Major Roger Ehrke as the 2022 El Paso County Veteran of the Year. He was recognized and presented with the award during the Military Affairs Council Armed Forces Luncheon on Thursday, May 18, 2023.

Roger’s military career began with the US Army, serving tours in Vietnam and Desert Storm, and concluded in 1996 as a Command Sergeant Major of a helicopter aviation brigade at Ft. Carson. Throughout his career, he earned numerous commendations, including three Bronze Star Medals, two Meritorious Service Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, and many more.

His most notable contribution in serving the Veterans of El Paso County is his 16-year tenure as the president of the Colorado Springs Veterans Day Parade. Under his leadership, the event has grown tremendously. In 2022 alone, Roger raised close to $30,000 to ensure a successful event, while also coordinating and garnering support from the community to include the participation of more than 2,000 veterans.

Beyond the Veterans Day Parade, Roger has been an active member of various veterans’ organizations. He serves as the national vice-president of the Armed Forces Top Enlisted Association (AFTEA) and has been a member of The Retired Enlisted Association (TREA) Chapter 1 in Colorado Springs for the past 20 years. Roger is also a proud member of American Legion Post 209 in central Colorado Springs, an organization dedicated to mutual helpfulness and serving all veterans and the El Paso County community.

In 2022, Roger stepped up to help families of deceased veterans navigate the challenges they faced after their loved ones’ passing. This included accompanying surviving spouses to medical appointments, informing them of available veteran and military benefits, and even assisting with tasks around the house. His unwavering passion and dedication to the veteran community exemplify the values we all strive to embody.

El Paso County’s Veterans Service Office and the Board of El Paso County Commissioners announced Skyler Nelson as the 2021 Veteran of the Year on Thursday, September 09.

Skyler Nelson is an Iraq War veteran that served in the Army as a Chaplain Assistant. She is a graduate student at Pepperdine University, working on becoming a clinical psychologist. She’s currently developing a veteran housing project in honor of her mentor CSM Scott Bailey.

Skyler joined the Army at age 17, missing her High School graduation. She served in Iraq as a chaplain’s assistant. Skyler has worked countless hours as a volunteer veterans advocate, volunteering her time with several organizations and advocating with local politicians to provide services for homeless veterans. Skyler is the Community Outreach Coordinator for K9’s for Veterans Abroad, raising thousands of dollars to provide free service dogs to veterans. She is also involved with Homes for all Veterans and Green Beret Foundation among other local non-profits.

Skyler has her own website she designed to guide veterans to local services as well as a behavioral health group page on Facebook. She is on the school board for Spacious Skies Charter School that is working to start a private school that assists special needs children. Skyler works with Mental Health Colorado and advocates for the homeless and Gold Star Families. In addition to her volunteer efforts, she is attending graduate school to become Clinical Psychologist.

El Paso County would like to thank the well deserving finalists Andrew Gilbert, Al Batey, and Roger A. Fortin for their continued service to the veteran community.

El Paso County Commissioner Stan VanderWerf presenting 2021 Veteran of the Year to Skyler Nelson

El Paso County’s Veterans Service Office announced Nanette Brédé Mueller as the 2020 Veteran of the Year at a ceremony on Thursday, September 10.

Colonel Nanette Brédé Mueller is a difference-maker. During her 29 years of distinguished military service in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserves, Nanette mobilized and deployed with chem-warfare gear to Washington, D.C. after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 as part of Operation NOBLE EAGLE, in defense of the homeland. She led efforts building the defense of the nation’s capital under the command of NORAD, where she directly guided and mentored soldiers. She held multiple strategic leadership roles and was responsible for policy development that continues to serve as the foundation for national integrated Air and Missile Defense.

Since retiring in 2010, Nanette’s volunteer service to the veteran community includes national involvement in legislative issues, career transition, spouse employment, and work with the Veterans Community Living Center in the Pikes Peak Region. She served on the local and national Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Board of Directors and is an award-winning volunteer with Employer Support of Guard and Reserve (ESGR).

All of her efforts are purely voluntary – to include her role launching and leading Prep Connect 360, a rigorous, community-supported week-long seminar taught in conjunction with Mt Carmel Veterans Service Center and the Pikes Peak Workforce Center. Since its inception in 2012, Prep Connect 360 has produced 780 well-prepared graduates, facilitating their strong transition into our civilian workforce and ensuring thriving families all contributing to the rich economy of our region.

“Veterans deserve our support and recognition for their exemplary military service, outstanding community service and endless encouragement to other local veterans. The Veteran of the Year award is our way to honor an El Paso County Veteran for their contributions to our community,” said Marshall Bosworth, El Paso County’s Veteran Service Officer.

We would like to thank the other well deserving nominees for this year’s award, Glen Cooper, James A. Reid and Martin L. Trujillo, for their continued service to the veteran community.

Nanette Brédé Mueller Holds Her 2020 Veteran of the Year Award
Nanette Brédé Mueller Holds Her 2020 Veteran of the Year Award after ceremony on September 10, 2020.

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.

Duane France Veteran of the Year 2019

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.

Victor M Fernandez 2018 Veteran of the Year

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.”