Carl Ray Fuller was full of life.
He met his future wife Vernordia one evening in 1996 while he was on duty as a DeKalb County police officer. She said her friend went up to talk to him first, but brought him over and introduced them.
“He was loveable, sweet,” Vernordia Fuller said Sunday. “He was hands on. It showed he was a caring person. It was all in his smile. That’s what I loved about him.”
They started dating after that, she said. Five years later, they married. He grew close to her three teenage boys, playing basketball and video games with them. She came to love his sister in Troy, Ala., during their frequent visits to Fuller’s family.
In 2002, as the United States geared up for an invasion of Iraq, Fuller was called into active duty in the Army. In late July 2005, an Army officer showed up at Vernordia Fuller’s house. “I knew something was wrong when he told me to sit down,” she said.
At the start of his second tour, Carl Fuller, a staff sergeant, was killed by a roadside improvised explosive device, along with three other men in his Humvee on July 24, 2005, outside of Baghdad. He was 44.
Fuller, whose mother lived in Covington and who worked here before he was deployed the second time, was the only fatal casualty from the war in Iraq from Newton County, according to the Army, which listed Fuller as a Covington resident. The last United States combat forces left Iraq in December, wrapping up an eight-year mission that left behind a fragile democracy and an uncertain security situation; 4,474 American military members lost their lives during the war.
No Newton County fatalities have been reported from Afghanistan.
After her husband’s death, Fuller said she coped by being active and volunteering; her boys stayed involved in sports and school, she said. But more than six years later, Fuller said her husband’s sacrifice still weighs on her. “It’s going to continue to be hard, probably for the rest of my life,” she said.
Carl Ray Fuller was born in Atlanta but spent much of his childhood in Jacksonville, Fla. He joined the Army after high school and later moved back to the Atlanta area. After his service in the Army, he remained in the National Guard.
Vernordia Fuller said Carl was a family man. Her fondest memories are of staying home with him in the evenings watching movies — though occasionally they went out dancing — and driving to Alabama to spend time with his brother and sister.
Vernordia Fuller still keeps in touch with his family in Alabama.
Her sister, Alicia Moore, said their side of the family was close to Carl, too. “Carl is the type of person, once you meet him, you’re family,” Moore said.
Fuller said his first deployment in 2002 and 2003 was more difficult than the second because they were only married briefly before he was called into active duty. “We didn’t have time to spend as husband and wife before his first tour,” she said.
Carl Fuller was deployed in 2005 with the Army National Guard 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade.
They kept in touch by email and phone calls. The news of his death was especially hard because she had just spoken to him hours before his Humvee was attacked. During that call, they began a difficult discussion many military families have: “He said he wanted to be in (the Army) permanently,” Fuller said.
Fuller also struggled with his decision to volunteer for the second tour.
But six years later, Fuller said the good times more than outweighed the bad, and she remembered him, his smile and the games he played with her sons with a smile on her lips.
“Carl’s a man who was full of life,” Moore said.
“He’s probably still full of life,” Fuller said, smiling. “God’s got his hands full.”