An early-morning house fire in rural Georgia has left a celebrated war veteran and beloved grandfather dead.
Family members confirmed that Duane Downey, 71, died during the blaze that engulfed his home in the small town of Bethlehem, Georgia around 5 a.m. on Monday morning. They added that he was a Vietnam veteran who survived being shot seven times and being hit with a rocket during the war, for which he received two Purple Heart medals and two Bronze Stars. A neighbor told WSB-TV that Downey also was disabled.
Barrow County firefighters said that they were trying to access the second floor of the home to rescue anyone inside, but they weren't able to extinguish the flames enough to get through. As the fire became manageable, they were able to reach Downey's body -- and when they removed it from the home, they covered it with an American flag and saluted.
Investigators said the fire was accidentally started by a stove that was left on.
Downey's grandson, Derrick Bozeman, told Fox 5 Atlanta that his family will focus on celebrating his grandfather's legacy.
“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,” Bozeman said.
"All we can do now is pick up the pieces and celebrate who he was."
Fox News' Frank Miles contributed to this report.