Homes for Our Troops came to the city of Temecula and hosted a ceremony at the Trinity Lutheran Church to officially commence the building of a new home for U.S. Marine Cpl. Christopher Van Etten Saturday, March 18.
Founded in 2004, Homes for Our Troops is a private, nonprofit organization that builds custom homes for injured veterans, and has built 231 homes since its inception. This year’s recipient, Christopher Van Etten, lost both his legs during his deployment in Afghanistan in 2012 while helping another member of his unit, who was injured by an explosive device.
Since then Van Etten not only recovered in stride, but has also kept busy by staying active in sports and even modeling for Jockey, an international clothing company. Van Etten is an Illinois native but has chosen to live in Temecula for its “tight-knit community.” and because he “fell in love with Temecula and the Southern California vibe,” which is why he knows Temecula is the perfect place to call home.
The event started at 10 a.m. and was filled with citizens from the Inland Empire who awaited outside for Van Etten’s arrival, including Temecula Mayor Maryann Edwards.
Van Etten and his wife made their grand entrance with at least 15 motorcyclists and two firetrucks, where he was embraced by Mayor Maryann Edwards and greeted by a cheering crowd waving American flags.
The event continued inside of the church where several speakers commended and expressed their deep gratitude for Van Etten’s military service, including a speech from Edwards.
“It’s always a humbling day when Homes for Our Troops comes to town,” Edwards said. “We love this organization and we are so honored to have Christopher here to express our admiration and appreciation for all that he has done for our country.”
Van Etten said Homes for Our Troops has had a huge impact his life.
“I never went into deployment expecting to get injured and the fact that there are people willing to give their time and money to help an organization to make my dreams a reality is incredibly humbling,” he said.
Van Etten spoke about his experiences and the motivation that keeps him going every day.
“No story is the same,” Van Etten said in regards to the struggles faced by injured veterans. “You can never really understand what someone is going through unless you walk in their shoes, but for those who are struggling, either mentally or physically, it’s important to keep telling yourself that it will get better, because that definitely helped me get through during my darker days.”
Van Etten said the time he spent modeling for Jockey’s “Show ‘Em What’s Underneath” campaign was “an awesome experience.”
“I was shocked when Jockey told me they wanted me to be a part of it, but it became an amazing campaign with an amazing message and I was just glad to be a part of it,” he said.
Going forward Van Etten plans on going to school for business, and eventually starting a family. He says that he has his family and friends to thank for helping him strive and excel against all odds, which is a message he wants to continue to spread to all veterans for the rest of his life.
You can visit www.hfotusa.org to read more about Van Etten’s inspirational story, to learn more about the Homes for Our Troops organization and how you can volunteer or donate to them.