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Injured Dahlonega soldier soon could return to Georgia

POSTED: June 22, 2009 11:15 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Bobbie Harmon of Murrayville walks past a sign in honor of Spc. Andy Sullens on Monday outside of Reid's Cafe on Thompson Bridge Road in Murrayville. Sullens, who was injured by a roadside bomb, is steadily improving and could return to Georgia soon.

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Army Spc. Andy “Sully” Sullens, a Dahlonega native wounded in a May 17 blast in Afghanistan, could finally return to Georgia, possibly this month.

“We’re waiting to get down to (Fort Gordon in) Augusta,” said his wife, Jill Sullens, in a phone interview Monday from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“As far as we know, they have all the paperwork and everything, ... and there’s an accepting physician,” she said. “We’re just waiting to figure out when his flight will leave.”

When Sullens arrives in Augusta, he may have to remain hospitalized at Eisenhower Army Medical Center for another week or so, “but hopefully, within the next couple of weeks, he’ll be outpatient,” his wife said.

“They have housing ... but he won’t be staying in a hospital room every day.”

Sullens, a 2001 graduate of Lumpkin County High School, has stayed at Walter Reed since the blast, which broke his pelvis and leg and caused severe burns.

The 26-year-old was one of four Georgia Army National Guard members wounded when their Humvee ran over an explosive device while on patrol near Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

He was thrown about 25 feet from the vehicle.

“I was knocked unconscious,” Sullens said in a May 31 phone interview from Walter Reed. “All of a sudden, I just saw a flash and then I woke up in the middle of the street.”

Sullens is a member of Charlie Troop, a reconnaissance and surveillance outfit attached to the 108th Cavalry Regiment and based out of Dalton. Charlie Troop was in Afghanistan about a month before the incident.

He has received a specially equipped wheelchair that enables him to leave his hospital bed for physical therapy on his knees and left ankle.

“He just can’t put any pressure yet on his pelvis,” said Jill Sullens, who works in systems at J&J Foods and is an accounting major at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega.

She said her husband is doing well and his spirits are fine.

“We go outside just about every day. He wants to get outside and get some sun.”

As for herself, “I’m pretty excited about coming back to Georgia.”

She and his mother, Melinda, have been at Walter Reed since the accident.

“We’re hoping that if everything goes well with Andrew — I don’t think we’re going to have any problems — but that he’ll be able to ... have a couple of days every other weekend or in the middle of the week just to go home,” Jill Sullens said.

She and her husband, married since August 2005, are hoping to attend an Aug. 1 event organized to help the couple with expenses.

Ashley Coker of Dahlonega is helping to organize the fundraiser, Sully Run, which will take place at Lumpkin County High School.
“It has turned into something totally massive statewide, nationwide,” Coker said of interest the event has drawn. “There are people from all over the United States that know Andy. ... We’re looking at probably 500 (motorcycle) riders right now.”

As part of the event, cyclists will travel to Blairsville or so, refuel as needed, then return to Lumpkin County High.

Preregistration will run through July 20, with the fee at $20, including a meal ticket. Registration on the day of the event costs $25 in cash only.

Riders and nonriders can enjoy festivities throughout the day, including family activities, games and events. The event also will feature food and entertainment.

“We just wanted to do something to show (the Sullenses) that we love them and we support Andy for everything, and we’re grateful for what he has done for us,” Coker said. “We wanted to show him a little respect too.”

Support is coming from other places, as well.

The sign in front of Reid’s Cafe at 5337 Thompson Bridge Road in Murrayville pleads for passers-by to “Please Pray for Andy Sullens.”

“I know his grandfather and mother well,” said Sherry Rundles, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Eddie. “I don’t know (Andy) as well as I do them. They’re just real good customers and friends of the family, and ... we’ve known them so long.”
When she heard about the injuries Sullens had suffered, “my heart went out to his momma big time.”



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