Demecio Duran is a veteran and the son of a veteran, with 11 other veterans in his family. They are committed to serving and protecting the United States of America. His father, Juan J. Duran, fought on the beaches of Normandy.
Demecio’s brother John served in Korea, and his brother Joey served with the 82nd Airborne. Demecio served two tours in Vietnam beginning in 1968, among the bloodiest years for American troops.
Demecio is a Costilla-Amalia lifelong resident, the husband of Alma Duran, owner of Duran’s Gas and Grocery ( see their Business Profile from this year’s August issue). He is the father of Jannifer, Andrea, and Maria Luz. He retired after running a construction company for 20 years, and now runs his own farm, growing alfalfa. Demicio is also a hunting guide and outfitter, and likes to restore old cars.
Duran wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. He believes the military is a place where young men and women can learn, grow, and figure out how to work effectively with others. His dad got Demecio a draft deferment when he was first called. Shortly after, he volunteered, opting for two Vietnam tours in the Army, which included the infamous Tet Offensive.
“My dad was in Normandy on D-Day. He was on the beach. I wanted to experience what my dad went through. I wanted to be part of it. To fight for my country. And my other brother John and my younger brother Joey followed. Eleven family members have served in one capacity or the other. My sister Monica was in the National Guard,” Duran said.
Duran did his basic training in Ft. Bliss, Texas, with additional training in Virginia. “I was shipped to Vietnam in 1968 and all of ’69 and came back the early part of 1970. I was a helicopter-door gunner. We flew into a lot of different places, but my base station was in the Me Kong Delta, in Vin Long. We did a lot of work throughout the Delta, mostly in the southern part of Vietnam. I was also in Da Nang, and way down by the South China Sea. I served one year, 12 months, and 15 days. I came home for one 30-day leave and then I spent another 12 months there.”
Duran has stayed in touch with one Army friend, Alfredo Lopez, but has not been able to locate others. He has another friend who served in South Vietnam, Adelmo Vallejos, from Amalia. His time in Vietnam has had a lifelong impact. He explains his return and the “welcoming” committees in Oakland, California. These were the protestors who threw rocks and tomatoes at those like Duran, who fought for our country.
“It was not a good time to come home. Throughout the years people have learned that we were not murderers and rapists. We were there to do a job. It might have been the wrong war, but we were there for the right reasons,” Duran said. Years later, people now thank Demecio for his service and continue to positively welcome him home.
War is a tough place, filled with heightened, latent memories. Demicio and the thousands who served with him had to find themselves upon return to civilian life. “It took me 30 years before I could find myself. Even the government understood that we had PTSD from the war and the protesters. It made us isolate a lot more and not be friendly with people. People who have never been there do not know what it takes to have been in a place like that. Today I still feel the effects of coming home and the war itself.”
Duran encourages vets to get counseling and learn to return to regular living. “I went two days to counseling twice a week for two-and-one-half years. I could then talk about Vietnam. The counseling helped. I completely changed my life around. They teach you that PTSD will always be there. They teach you how to handle it,” he said.
When asked what he says to young people about joining the military, he quickly responds that he encourages them to join. “You can learn a lifetime of lessons in two years. To me, it’s not only fighting, but you meet people, you learn how to get along with your comrades. I think it’s good. Today it is a volunteer Army. We had some good times and we had some bad times.”
To Demecio Duran, and to all veterans, for this veterans’ month, “Thank you for your service.”