Local Soldier Injured in Afghanistan

By: Gary Loe
By: Gary Loe

An East Tennessee military family is waiting for an update on one of their own after she is critically injured on the front lines.

It's a story you will only see here on WVLT.

Family members say an IED mangled the leg of 27-year-old Private First Class Sue Downes of Tazewell and destroyed the Humvee she was riding in. The attack in Afghanistan killed at least 2 of the other 3 soldiers on patrol with the unit.

Volunteer TV's Gary Loe traveled to Claiborne County to visit with Downes' family, and is in the newsroom with details of the attack.

Army authorities phoned PFC Sue Downes' husband before noon Wednesday to let family members know a deadly roadside bomb hurt the Tazewell servicewoman. Now, almost 12 hours later, the family is trying to cope with their loved one's crippling combat injury.

As we arrived to the Downes' Tazewell home, husband Gabriel Downes breaks the news to his mother-in-law, Faye Partin, that her daughter is critically injured.

"They told me that she just lost a leg," Downes said.

Private First Class Sue Downes was on her 2nd surveillance mission in 3 days in Afghanistan, connected with the 544th, 10th Mountain Rangers. Downes, who usually drives the patrol unit's Humvee, was filling in as a gunner on Tuesday when the improvised explosive device blew-up. The explosion hurt the 1998 Powell Valley High School graduate's mid-section and forced a leg amputation.

"Every service family dreads that call," Downes said. "You don't think it'll happen to you or your family, but it happened to us."

"You know, I should've been there, not her," Downes said.

Gabriel, who still wears his dog tags, served 2 years in the army until a back injury resulted in his medical discharge. His wife Sue then enlisted to support him and their son Austin and daughter Alexis.

"She's our hero. That's the last statement I wrote her on the internet. We were all proud of her, proud that she's my wife," Downes said.

Other family members and close relatives are also proud of PFC Downes and gather together to cope with her injury.

"I think she done more than her share," Downes' brother Dwayne Lee said. "She gave 110 percent of it all."

"We can live without a leg or an arm, but at least, we're just thankful she's alive," Downes said.

Family members will wait to hear when and where PFC Downes will return to the United States, then travel there to be with her during her physical rehabilitation. Gabriel Downes' says his wife's military career is probably now over.


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