Last Updated on November 11, 2023 by BVN
Riverside lit up its County Administration Center building with green lights in solidarity with the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers (NACVSO).
On Tuesday Nov. 7, Supervisors Karen Spiegel and Chuck Washington thanked veterans in their opening remarks at the Riverside County ceremonial light-switch event.
Riverside County is part of the nation’s 3,069 counties, parishes, and boroughs in Operation Green Light, which signifies support and appreciation for veterans.
The County Administration building will remain lit in green from Nov. 7 through Nov. 12.
“Our commitment to our veterans is unwavering. This gesture, simple but significant, is our way of saying ‘thank you’ for their immense sacrifices,” said Supervisor Spiegel. “We are proud to light up our administration building in green as a symbol of our ongoing support and recognition of their service.”
“If you need help, there’s help here.”
Daniel Martinez has countless memories of his service in the U.S. Navy Reserves. One of his favorite memories is celebrating his eighteenth birthday at sea during the world’s fourth largest typhoon.
Martinez, who joined the Navy at sixteen and served in the Vietnam War, traveled to Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore. He also took part in a covert mission in Cambodia and later Desert Shield. While he recalls those experiences fondly, he also faces the difficult memories from his service.
“When I go back to that place, it’s dark,” he said. Martinez shared how after his service he suffered from substance abuse and once attempted suicide.
“That’s why I have my sister come with me because if I were to drive home right now, and thinking about all this — [it] wouldn’t be good,” he added.
Today, Martinez has been sober for 34 years. He credited the Riverside County Department of Veteran Services for his opportunity to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and lung disease treatment from Agent Orange exposure.
Martinez fought for his case to access benefits for thirty years, but was continuously denied by the federal Veterans Administration. Eventually, he began working with Riverside County’s Assistant Director of Veterans Services, Adam French, who was able to send in the paperwork and secure Martinez’s benefits within a month. Martinez was even awarded a Vietnam War service medal, which he’d been previously denied for years.
“My message to other veterans is that if you need help, there’s help here,” said Martinez. “When I was out of Vietnam, there was no help. The only help we got was a hospital jail or suicide. Now you got all these organizations out here, just saying, ‘Come, we’ll take care of you. Just get here and we’ll do the rest.’”
He formed a nonprofit of his own called United Veterans Corner Resources. The organization provides resources such as food and clothing drives, workforce postings and a pipeline to addiction support for veterans.
Martinez works hard to learn about other organizations and their services in order to understand where to send his community if there is a need he cannot directly meet.
Martinez explained that Riverside County is a leading force in providing resources to its veterans, but knows that not every veteran in the U.S. may have the same access to these resources.
“I’ve seen a lot of veterans that are really bad [off] out there…in small towns across the U.S. they don’t have the [same] type of funding,” he explained.
Now, Martinez is writing a book as he continues to help others. He enjoys spending time with his sister, who also lived in Vietnam while her husband fought in the Vietnam War.
“What I would really like to see is more effort [put] into peace than we do in the war,” Martinez said.
A New Leader for Riverside’s Veterans Services: Gregory Coffos merges a passion for public service, leadership, and veteran service.
If Gregory Coffos, recently appointed lead of the County of Riverside Veterans’ Services Department, could send a single message about veterans to his community, it would be to honor them for the liberties and freedoms Americans enjoy because of their sacrifices.
Coffos is a San Jacinto resident and has worked for the past ten years in the nonprofit sector, supporting unhoused residents secure housing. He served in the Navy for five years as a logistics specialist, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 146 in Lemoore, CA.
Coffos and his staff support over 50,000 veterans each year. Their work is centered around supporting these veterans in identifying, registering for, and receiving their benefits.
“I have pretty grand visions of the department. I want to grow it into different dynamics,” explained Coffos. “Not just focusing on claims and pensions, but also getting into the homeless initiative and the workforce initiatives and trying to be like a one-stop shop, where veterans can come and be supported all around with a 360 kind of support.”