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Bronx Marine Fights to House Fellow Veterans

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TWC News: Bronx Marine Fights to House Fellow Veterans
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A Bronx Marine is still on a mission even after returning home from Iraq, though this time his objective is to save his fellow veterans. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.

A house that stands in the Belmont section of the Bronx once belonged to Gonzalo Duran's father. He died while Duran was serving his country.

"He had a heart attack when I was in Iraq in 2008 and he deteriorated," Duran said.

Now, Duran is trying to save the rundown home.

"I think he'd be very proud of what I'm doing," he said.

Duran says it's not just for his dad, but for other veterans like him. After returning home, he says he had a tough time transitioning into civilian life.

"Waiting for school to start and then getting an apartment. That alone was maybe a five, six months process. Four of those months were horrible," recalled Duran. "I had a certain amount of money to get an apartment, but because of the community not understanding what the post 9/11 G.I. Bill was and how it works that caused me to basically become homeless."

Once Duran got on track, he started Devil Dog Incorporated, a non-profit that primarily helps veterans. His vision is to transform the house at 2381 Lorillard Place into transitional housing and recreation space for former servicemen and women. The goal is to get it done by year's end to prevent homeless vets from being out in the cold.

But that is easier said than done. There's a long way to go before the place is ready for veterans to live in it.

"First a lot of legal paper work, second construction inside the house and outside the house and then, wow, furniture for it," Duran said.

The community has helped a lot by donating furniture, equipment and volunteering.

"A lot of people don't seem to realize that we're walking around here free, as a free country because of the men and women who are serving in the forces and it's a shame then when they come out, most of them come out to nothing," said Carlos Baez, a volunteer.

Duran says about 80 percent of the funding comes out of his pocket. It's a tough job, but he's doing it so other veterans don't have to suffer like he did.

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