A disabled Vietnam war veteran was the sole victim of a fire that broke out in Bethlehem, Georgia on Monday. The man survived being shot before the fire took his life.
Firefighters were unable to rescue 71-year-old Duane Downey when a fire started at his home on the 300 block of Lokeys Ridge Road in the early hours of Monday morning.
Barrow County Emergency Services said the time of the event was around 5 a.m. Downey was previously in a motorcycle accident some years back and survived.
Unfortunately, Barrow County firefighters couldn't get past the roaring flames that had enveloped the veteran's home. Attempts to reach the second floor proved futile.
One neighbor, Sarah Judd, gave her account of the events:
"We heard a loud, a really loud crash, and when my stepfather stepped back out to investigate, he had seen that the roof had collapsed."
By the time rescue workers carried Downey out of his home, he had succumbed to the flames. The firefighters covered him in an American flag and saluted the vet.
Kristen Holloway of WSB-TV was among media personnel who arrived in time to find that the house was completely destroyed by the deadly fire.
An investigation revealed that someone left on a stove in Downey's house, causing the fire to start. Derrick Bozeman is Downey's grandson. He spoke to reporters after the tragic loss.
Bozeman said his family will remember his grandfather's legacy as they mourn his death. He explained that "all we can do now is pick up the pieces and celebrate who he was."
Speaking to Fox 5 Atlanta, he said:
“He was in the Airborne Division, hit with a rocket, blown up by a couple of grenades, shot multiple times and he came home and had the best attitude anyone could have expected him to have. He was a true American hero."
Downey, who loved motorcycles, was reportedly shot at least seven times during his service. He was even hit with a rocket. He received two Purple Heart medals and two Bronze stars for his bravery.
His daughter Vickie described him as "a very caring, loving man." Another neighbor, Luz Rodriguez, said that she would always make sure to smile and wave at Downey.
Another vet was taken away from us but had no surviving family members to honor his name. As a result, the U.S. Army W.T.F! moments made an announcement on Facebook reaching out to people to show their appreciation.
Leo Stokley was 69 when he passed away on November 4, 2018. He was a member of the United States Marine Corps and served in Vietnam as well.
Thanks to the Facebook post, many people showed up at the Tennessee Veterans Cemetary to pay their respects. The local funeral home was overwhelmed, as were the three nurses who took care of Stokely before his death.
Another member of the military was on active duty when he died recently. Army Captain Antoine Lewis was among eight other Americans who died upon the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane on Sunday, March 10.
Lewis was vacationing in Africa when the tragedy hit Flight 302, causing 157 people to perish. His mother said he died doing what he most wanted, that is embracing his mother country.
The 39-year-old left behind both his parents, his wife and his 15-year-old son. He previously served in Afghanistan and South Korea. He was stationed in Ottowa, Canada before he took the vacation that would end his life.
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