George Duren - US Army Veteran - Port St. Joe, FL
George Walter Duren joined the military after graduating from Florida State University. He trained as an Infantry Rifleman and was sent to Vietnam around June 1968. He was assigned to the 2rd squad of the 2nd Platoon of Charlie Co. of the 2/35 Infantry of the 4th Infantry Division, based in Camp Enari, West of Pleiku in the Central Highlands. His main responsibilities were working with his squad’s missions, manning the Listening Posts at night and taking a turn walking point when on patrol and most all other duties that go with being in a rifle platoon combat zone.
Around the 3rd month into time spent in a war zone, he suffered a non-combat injury fracture in his foot and was sent back to base camp and given time for the swelling to subside. Shortly after he left his infantry, they were ambushed at Due Lap and his unit suffered severe casualties. He has said that he doesn’t feel good about not being with his unit that day.
After a year tour, he was allowed to come home and flew in to Fort Lewis, Washington and was released from further duty since he only had less than 3 months left. He was told not to attempt to wear his uniform flying home to Florida because of the protests, so he purchased some civilian clothes and went silently home.
He has often said that, like most veterans, he has never forgotten his experiences in Vietnam and they never get too far from him. Over the years, he has dedicated himself to celebrate soldiers’ return and to give honor to the lives some of them gave. Serving other veterans has been a very rewarding experience for George. Perhaps no other group of American citizens do more to earn the gratitude of a nation. George co-spear headed the Forgotten Coast Warrior Weekend which entertained 20 wounded Veterans and their companions with deep sea fishing and activities on the coast for 9 years. He served on the board of the creation of the Three Servicemen South Park in Apalachicola, FL and has been instrumental in leading a committee to raise money and build the Honor Walk, a venue to Honor all veterans at the Gulf County Veterans Park on Beacon Hill, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
- 1976 – History-A & P Supermarket closed in Port St. Joe and I re-opened it as my Supermarket.
- 1978 – Joined local Port St. Joe Kiwanis Club, served as President and Project coordinator.
- 1979 – Joined Gulf County Chamber of Commerce, served as President & active member.
- 1950 – A member of the First United Methodist Church holding most offices in the Church and active member of The Methodist Men’s Club for many years in community service.
- 1982 – Founding member of Downtown Merchant’s Association-Events included: Pirates On The Coast on 4th of July Halloween carnival & parade Christmas On the Coast Festival
- 1999 – Local St. Joe Paper Mill closed down and laid off 650 employees. Using my supermarket business as an opportunity, I contributed & solicited donations and put together a $65.00 Thanksgiving Food Package for each employee. A large tent was set up and volunteers distributed it 3 days before Thanksgiving.
- 1999-2006 – Served on the Board of Trustees for Gulf Coast Community College.
- 2002-2005-Served as Director on the Board of Three Servicemen South in Apalachicola, Fl.
- 2008-2017 – Was Co-Chair of Forgotten Coast Warrior Weekend. This was an event held each or these years where we selected 20 Wounded Warriors from all over the country and flew in or provided transportation for them and their companion to come to Port St. Joe and spend from Wednesday to Sunday at Windmark Beach in their” own” condo. While here they enjoyed a field trip and shopping around the area, a Hero’s parade through downtown Port St. Joe, and off shore fishing trip (for all those who were able to go- local boat captains volunteered & took them) and a Hero’s Banquet attended by 300-400 local patriots to honor them. Perhaps the most valuable event was simply their eating their meals together and gathering each evening for time around a bonfire on the beach. We raised the $45,000.00-$50,000.00 budget each year to pay expenses. It ended when we were no longer able to acquire the condo’s at Windmark Beach and use of the restaurant. But we entertained well over 150 Wounded Warriors during this time and each of them established a network or Brothers for life.
- March 15, 2018 Named a Kentucky Colonel for service to my Community.
- October 10-20 Hurricane Michael-Contributed hundreds of pound of food to food tents.
- 2017-Present Chairperson of Designing, Planning, Raising funding and building The Honor Walk. This is a project where local veterans and patriots have gained support from the Gulf County Commission to build what we call The Honor Walk on the bluff overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at the Gulf County Veterans Memorial Park at Beacon Hill, just west of Port St. Joe, Fl. This is a $350,000.00 project that is 70% funded at this point and with inkind donations from builders, it will be completed in 2020.