Christopher Van Etten, of O’Fallon, Illinois is the son of Wayne and Leigh Van Etten, both retired Air Force veterans. After graduating from O’Fallon Township High School in 2009, Chris enlisted in the Marine Corps on July 13, 2009.
He was a rifleman, assigned to Charley Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines from 29 Palms California during that battalions deployment to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. LCPL Van Etten’s duties included working with his bomb sniffing dog, “Harley.” While deployed to Afghanistan, his battalion was assigned one of the most dangerous and deadly areas for US forces, the Sangin District of Helmand Province. On June 13, 2012 Lance Cpl. Van Etten was on a night combat patrol on a hill overlooking an Afghani village when a massive improvised explosive device (“IED”) detonated. As Chris and other Marines in the squad responded to that explosion and tried to assist a wounded colleague, a second IED went off. This second IED killed Chris’s best friend, CPL T.J. Baune of Minnesota, as well as blew off both of Chris’s legs.
The rehabilitation and recovery since that fateful day has been extremely challenging but Chris has met it with the same intensity and determination he displayed in the Marines. He received his prosthetic legs on August 13, 2012 and was medically retired from the Marine Corps at the rank of Corporal, the next year, 2013. Chris was thrilled when, through the efforts of many of his Marine Corps friends and colleagues, his bomb dog, Harley was retired from the Corps at the same time, becoming Chris’s service dog. The pair remain inseparable.
The 24 year old has stayed extremely active since he retired from active duty. He is quite a fitness buff and has modeled extensively. In October, 2013 he hand-cycled the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C.. In addition to modeling, Chris is hopeful to get into acting and motivational speaking.
The Joshua Chamberlain Society could not be happier to introduce our 7th JCS Hero, United States Marine Corps Cpl. Chris Van Etten.