‘A True American Hero’: Decorated Vietnam Veteran Dies in Atlanta House Fire

BARROW COUNTY, Ga. – A decorated veteran who twice survived being wounded in the Vietnam War died early Monday morning in a house fire, according to WAGA.

Barrow County firefighters said 71-year-old Duane Downey wasn’t able to escape from his second-floor bedroom when his home caught fire.

Firefighters responded to Downey’s home after a neighbor called 911 and reported a large blaze.

Crews attempted to go inside the home when they arrived but the fierce flames pushed them back, WAGA reported.

Once they were able to put fire the fire out, firefighters found Downey’s body in a second story bedroom.

Family members told WAGA Sgt. Downey received two Purple Heart medals and two Bronze Stars for his four years of service in the Vietnam War.

“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’s grandson Derrick Bozeman said.

Barrow County firefighters covered his body with an American flag and saluted as they removed his remains from his charred home.

“That’s awesome. I’m so glad they did that for him. He was so proud of his service, and I’m proud of him for being in the war, ” daughter Vickie Downey said.

Barrow County EMS Captain Scott Dakin told Bruner his crew thought it was important to pay their final respects to such a highly decorated soldier.

“Because he was a veteran, we placed a flag over him and we did give him a military salute just because he paid a lot of debt for us,” Dakin said.

WAGA reported that by Monday afternoon, investigators determined the fire was accidentally ignited by a stove that was left on.

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