GCU Salutes Afghanistan War Hero Josh Bullis
By Doug Carroll
Photo by Tim Koors
GCU honored Army Pfc. Josh Bullis of north Phoenix with a $5,000 annual scholarship and a sustained standing ovation at Thursday’s men’s basketball game in Antelope Gym.
The occasion was Military Appreciation Night, and Bullis attended with several members of his family. He lost both legs at the knee on Sept. 19 in Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) and it detonated.
On Nov. 2, Bullis was transferred from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego so that he could be closer to home. In twice-daily physical therapy sessions, he has been learning to walk on prosthetic legs.
He expects to remain in San Diego for an additional eight months, and at this point he’s uncertain how he will use the scholarship.
“I’m learning,” said Bullis, a 2007 graduate of Barry Goldwater High School. “The things that were easy are hard now.”
At halftime of the game, University CEO Brian Mueller presented Bullis with an oversize scholarship check at midcourt. A lengthy ovation for the soldier followed.
For this game only, the men’s basketball team donned special, camouflage-style warmup shirts with the words “We Salute You” on the back. Thunder was clad in similar gear.
Andy Rumpeltes, a 2007 graduate of GCU who recently returned from an Army intelligence assignment in Iraq, also attended the game and was moved by seeing Bullis.
“I feel like, ‘Why him?’” Rumpeltes said. “I don’t know what to think. Seeing young heroes coming back injured, it makes me sad.”
Harold “Bub” Bullis, Josh’s father, said he has used up most of the sick time accrued in 17 years with the Phoenix Police Department so that he could be with his son during recovery.
“He’s had a great attitude and spirit,” Harold said of Josh. “He doesn’t take no for an answer. I’ve been with him since a week after he got injured. He’s so focused on walking right now. His big goal is getting on his next set of legs.”
GCU Alumni Director Don Fraser coordinated Military Appreciation Night and the appearances of Bullis and Rumpeltes. Fraser said he has known Bullis’ grandfather for years through their church, Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria.
University staff, upon learning that Rumpeltes was stationed in Iraq and missing friends at GCU, sent emails of support toward the end of his tour.
“It was great hearing from people here,” Rumpeltes said. “I was walking around the campus today and I couldn’t believe how much things have changed. It’s an exciting time for GCU.”
Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.