The County Voice

The People You Meet!

One of the best things about my job as CSAC’s communications coordinator is the people I get to meet. We are in the process now of producing videos to celebrate the recipients of our 2015 Challenge Awards. These are all programs that exemplify best practices, innovation, and effective delivery of vital county services.

Invariably, the people who design and implement these programs are smart, hardworking, forward-thinking people who are committed to doing what they do better. They are heroes to the people who need the services they provide. And then once in a while, you get to meet a real hero.

Such was the case a few weeks ago when our videographer, Michael Sweet, and I were in Orange County to learn more about their “Veterans Helping Veterans” program. I won’t go into too much detail about the program now—we’ll do that when we have the video ready for release—but suffice it to say that Orange County, working through a VA program, is giving part-time employment to veterans in their own Veterans Service Center. It’s a great idea—and it came from a young man named Marco Martinez, the Orange County Veterans Service Officer.

Someone else in the office told us that Marco, a former Marine, had been awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism under fire in Iraq. But we weren’t there to talk about his service record. We were there to talk about the program he started. Marco turned out to be helpful, intelligent, articulate, and passionate about helping his fellow veterans.

We did our interviews, shot some additional footage, and then went on our way. It wasn’t until I was back at work the following week that I got a little curious and googled “Marco Martinez, Navy Cross.” Wow!

The young man we had interviewed was a “war hero” in the most dramatic sense of that term. Pinned down with his squad under intense fire in Iraq in 2003, he used an Iraqi rocket-propelled grenade, a weapon he had never even held before, to attack the enemy insurgents inside a house. He then charged the building and provided cover fire for the others in his squad to evacuate a wounded Marine. He ended up clearing the building, singlehandedly stopping the insurgent attack.

You can find more detailed (and graphic) descriptions of his actions online if you want to. So Marco, the helpful young man we interviewed, is a bona fide war hero. But there is even more to his story.

Upon his return from Iraq and discharge from the Marine Corps, Marco wrote a book about growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the path he took to become one of the most decorated enlisted men in the Marine Corps. He also went to college, earned a degree, and has appeared on television as a military analyst. Today, he leads the Orange County Veterans Services Office, finding new and innovative ways to help his fellow vets.

Working on Challenge Award videos over several years has taught me there are many ways to be a hero—but it’s uncommon to find so many of them in one person!

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