DAHLONEGA — Spc. Andrew "Sully" Sullens had to come home to see that his efforts overseas were appreciated.
In Afghanistan, few locals seemed to grasp the good the Americans were trying to do in promoting a stable democratic government, self-sufficient military and police forces, he said.
"The community’s so corrupt, you may be drinking tea with the same guy who calls ahead and gets you blown up the next day," Sullens said. "The country’s been so poor for so long that there’s no real loyalty to the nation. You don’t know who’s your enemy and who’s not. It’s tough — it’s a really hard mission."
On Saturday, Sullens, who is recovering from serious injuries caused by a roadside bomb, was honored by a grateful community that put together "Sully Run," a motorcycle ride and barbecue lunch to raise money for him and his wife.
Sullens said the show of support from friends and strangers alike makes him want to direct his energies into serving Lumpkin County as a sheriff’s deputy when he recovers. He was a deputy before being called up as part of Charlie Troop, a Georgia Army National Guard outfit attached to the 108th Cavalry Regiment.
Sullens was one of four soldiers wounded May 17 when their Humvee ran over an improvised explosive device while on patrol near Bagram Air Base. He was thrown 25 feet and suffered severe burns, a broken leg and shattered pelvis. He remains wheelchair-bound but hopes to start walking soon.
Meanwhile, hundreds of folks have stepped up to show their support during his recovery. More than 120 motorcyclists took part in Saturday’s ride.
"It’s been humbling, it’s been a moving experience to see this community pull together to help me out," Sullens said.
Among the riders was a contingent of the Gainesville-based "Sons of Thunder," a Christian biker ministry outreach group whose members helped prepare the barbecue for Saturday’s event.
"He (Sullens) sacrificed for this country so we could be free, so we want to give back to him and be part of something positive," Sons of Thunder founder and president Jeff Looney said.
The Sons of Thunder roared in on Harley-Davidsons and Hondas, with no preference shown to any brand of bike.
"Jesus doesn’t care what you ride, as long as you ride for the right reasons," Looney said.
Sullens’ mother, Melinda, said the support shown for her son was evidence that "God is good and North Georgia is a strong, Christian community. He’s been on so many prayer lists."
Melinda’s other son, Tom, returned from Iraq in June.
She said local support for the military is unwavering, regardless of political views.
"It doesn’t matter if they think we’re over there for the right reasons or not, they support our local boys," she said.
For his part, Sullens believed in his mission, but added it was "so easy to get discouraged."
"You didn’t really know whether the person you were helping one day may be shooting at you the next."