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Couple rebuilding after husbands war wounds
Andrew received purple heart in 2009
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Jill Sullens throws away scrap pieces of lumber at her Dahlonega home under construction Saturday morning. She and her husband Andy, who was wounded while serving in Afghanistan, are building their home.

Jill and Andrew "Sully" Sullens aren't just building a new home — they're building a new life after Andy's life-changing 2009 injuries while serving in Afghanistan.

Things "are going fantastic, but it's been kind of a roller coaster," said Jill in an interview last week.

The Lumpkin County couple now is settling into jobs and moving along with life, getting further away memories of the war, particularly the May 17 blast while on patrol near Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

"It's just been a building process, it's just been a long time in the works," Andrew said.
"Right now I'm just trying to rebuild and get back to where I started."

Sullens, a 2001 graduate of Lumpkin County High School, had been in the country about a month as a member of Charlie Troop, a reconnaissance and surveillance outfit attached to the 108th Cavalry Regiment and based out of Dalton.

He was one of four Georgia Army National Guard members wounded when their Humvee ran over an explosive device.

The blast threw Sullens about 25 feet from the vehicle, knocking him unconscious. He suffered a broken hip and leg, along with severe burns.

Sullens ended up at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and later Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Augusta.

"Andrew received a medical retirement from the military (last year)," Jill Sullens said.
He went back to work at the Lumpkin County Sheriff's Office last June and "was doing really well," she said. "He was getting back to being pretty active and getting back to running again and working out."

By the fall, however, he was having such trouble with his right ankle, to the extent that he "realized it wasn't going to get any better," his wife said.

Andrew started seeing a couple of specialists, who told him that "the cartilage that was left in his ankle had worn away, and basically his ankle was bone-on-bone contact," she said.

In February, doctors amputated his right leg from below the knee down.

"He's doing fantastic," Jill said. "He's already working with a prosthetic and getting back to being active and ... doing really, really well with it."

Andrew is still working at the sheriff's office.

"They put him on light duty. He's been doing a lot of stuff at the jail and working in the office," she said.

When her husband was in Afghanistan, she worked at J&J Foods and was an accounting major at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega.

"I finally graduated at the end of April," she said, chuckling. "It took me a few years longer to do it, but I graduated."

She now has an internship at a Certified Public Accountant firm in Buford.

In 2009 Andrew received a Purple Heart for being wounded in combat. He says the experience was "surreal."

"When I got it, I'd just woke up from surgery for about 10-15 minutes and they came and gave it to me, and I went back to sleep," Andrew said.

"It really wasn't one of those things you think about, you're cognitive and then it's over."

Unlike so many soldiers who have suffered psychologically after war, Andrew "hasn't seemed to have problems with it," Jill said.

"Some of it might be he wasn't really there for a long time before he got hurt," she said. "He hasn't seemed to have a hard time with it."

 

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