As a Marine, Richard Duran traveled the world to places many may never have the chance to visit, but his service didn’t end there.
Duran has continued to serve other veterans and his country by volunteering to raise and lower the U.S. flag at the Veterans Affairs Clinic, located at 1301 N. Turner Street since its opening.
The reason Duran volunteered to raise and lower the colors was because the parking lot lacked proper lighting, he said.
Military etiquette requires the American flag to always have light shined on it during night time hours.
And, Duran’s work did not go unnoticed by the clinic staff.
On Jan. 13 employees of the clinic dedicated a flag pole in Duran’s honor for “his willingness to volunteer and honor the flag and his country.”
From Hawaii and the Philippines to Okinawa, Japan, and serving during the Vietnam War, Duran has seen much of the world following the ring of fire outside of the United States.
From 1966 to 1969, Duran served in the U.S. Marine Corps, as a Lance Corporal, Company 2/7 1st Marine Division, and was eventually stationed in Vietnam — serving in the war in1968 and 1969.
Duran described the experience as being traumatic, and having been responsible for “clean ups.”
“In Vietnam I was in 60mm mortars stationed in the Nang. Mortars gave support to the infantry that was out there,” Duran said. “We don’t actually go out with them but when they’re out on a patrol and they hit a firefight, they would call in and tell us their coordinates and we would drop mortar rounds to give them support.”
He said the war has haunted him to this day.
“I’ve been trying for 40 years to get away from the war,” Duran said. “My memory is really foggy and a lot of the stuff that happened in Vietnam, the experience was very traumatic. After a firefight and jets are coming in and dropping bombs and we have to go in and do a clean up and see the bodies burst open when they were burned. Those experiences are what I’ve been trying to forget.”
But, Duran said his experience in the Corps wasn’t all bad.
“We had our good times,” Duran said. “Everybody had their own little group, we did our little partying, had our tent, played our music, danced, we had good times. We still hold reunions once a year and I get to see a few (of those friends) every now and then. Those are brothers I will never forget.”
After his service in the Corps, Duran went home to El Paso, Texas where he said there wasn’t enough work to go around. So, he got into a welding school, graduated and applied for a welding job in Hobbs.
“The rest is history,” he said.
Duran has lived in Hobbs since 1980. Since retiring from welding he has done everything he can to keep busy in order to cope with his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he said.
Duran has coached three generations of softball athletes in his family, driven the bus for the Veterans Affairs Clinic in Hobbs — taking his fellow veterans to and from appointments.
Helping those veterans is something Duran said has helped him the most, because he gets to hear how other veterans have been able to cope with the after effects of the war.
“I took veterans to Albuquerque or Odessa, or the clinic here,” Duran told the News-Sun. “That gave me a chance to see other views of what other veterans are experiencing (after the war).”
Duran has also been responsible for taking care of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and teaching them a respect for the U.S. flag.