A 2011 Chestatee High School graduate was severely injured Friday by a blast from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, but family members say he is expected to recover.
Pfc. Sean Adams, 19, an engineer in the U.S. Marine Corps, was on patrol checking roads and searching for improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in the village of Kajaki when he stepped on one.
The blast resulted in numerous severe injuries to the Gainesville native's legs and hands, his brother, Josh Adams, told The Times.
Doctors have placed Adams in a medically induced coma. He is in critical condition, but his brother said doctors expect him to recover.
"This was pretty much his duty. This is what he did every day," Josh Adams said.
"His job was to pretty much go out and check roads and if the roads need to be repaired they would repair them. But their main goal was to try to find IEDs, whether they be in cars or on the ground and take care of them ... for the safety not only of soldiers, but safety of the people that live there in Afghanistan."
The injuries to Adams' legs and hands required surgeons to amputate his right above his knee and his left leg past his knee. Surgeons also amputated the pinky finger on his right hand and the thumb on his left hand.
He also received extensive damage to his right arm, lacerations to his right eye, as well as various other injuries, Josh Adams' wife, Nicole, told The Times.
Adams is expected to be flown to a hospital in Germany and could be transferred to Bethesda, Md., next week for recovery that could take up to a year or longer, she said.
The family was notified of Adams' injuries Friday morning shortly after the incident occurred.
They created a Facebook page to allow others to monitor updates on Adams' condition. They also are considering creating a support group or foundation to help pay for recovery costs.
Several area restaurants have agreed to put out donation jars to help.
Adams' friends said Saturday he always had his mind on serving his country, including Baker Pulliam, who said "people would kid him about him being my son."
"He's a really good kid. All he ever wanted to be was a Marine," said Pulliam, who was Adams' construction technology teacher at Chestatee and has known him since ninth grade. "He wanted to serve his country, not because he thought he was better than anyone else, but he wanted to be serving and protecting the people he loved."
Another friend, Cody Lewallen, heard the news as soon as he woke up Friday morning from Adams' brother and sister-in-law. Lewallen rushed to be with the family, to whom he has grown close over the years.
"I know I need to be strong for his family," Lewallen said. "I know that's what Sean would want me to do, and he would do the same thing if the roles were reversed."
Lewallen met Adams when the two were in high school. The two sang in the choir together at Rejoice Baptist Church and grew to become best friends.
Outside of church, they'd tease each other about whose school was better: Lewallen, now a 19-year-old graduate of Johnson High, naturally said his was the best. But Adams defended Chestatee High.
And when Adams enlisted in the Marines last year, Lewallen wasn't surprised and helped him prepare for basic training.
Lewallen said he last saw his friend around Christmastime. Adams was set to head to Afghanistan in January; Lewallen recalled his friend's anxiousness and how Adams was missing his church family and his friends.
Until he deployed, Lewallen said Adams was based in California.
Lewallen is in the process of joining the Navy.
"He was kind of worried, so he needed a lot of encouragement," Lewallen said.
Pulliam saw Adams off to boot camp nearly a year before his deployment.
"Sean is a strong person, always has been," Pulliam said.
"I believe he has the strength to get through it, but he will need help. He has a lot of good people around him.
"I can't count the number of people who have called me concerned about him. ... He's our hometown hero."
If he could talk to his friend right now, Lewallen would say what any best friend would.
"I'd tell him I love him, and I'm always going to be here for him," he said. "No matter what, he can always come to me. I'm never going to leave him."
In the meantime, he and other friends like Pulliam are rallying around the Adams family.
"Our biggest thing is we need prayers for him," Nicole Adams said.
Staff members Ashley Fielding and Keith Albertson contributed to this story.