By Ashley Yarchin
St. Louis (KSDK) - Monday night a marine from O'Fallon, Illinois was reunited with his parents for the first time since he was critically injured in explosion in Afghanistan. But before the couple boarded a plane to make that happen, NewsChannel 5 caught up with them at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
"Today, I am flying to San Diego to be with my son," explained Leigh Van Etten.
"And I get to go hug my hero," added her husband, Wayne.
Air travel is already filled with agonizing anticipation and annoyances, so imagine what Monday afternoon must have been like for pair of O'Fallon, Illinois.
"I'm teary-eyed right now because I just want to get there," Leigh said. "I want to see him. It's been so long and I just want to hold him in my arms."
Lance Corporal Christopher Van Etten deployed from Twentynine Palms, California as part of a Marine infantry unit back in March. June 13th, the 21-year-old was on his way back from patrol when two I.E.D.'s went off - injuring him and two others - and killing a Minnesota man, the 2,000th American killed in combat in Afghanistan.
"I never want to go through that again," Leigh said of getting the call about her son. "The two hours that it took for me to get a phone call from him were horrific but as soon as I heard his voice, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders."
"You know, you're taught that your father's your hero," said Wayne. "My hero's my son. I'm just amazed what he went through and how he's handled himself."
As they passed through security, Leigh and Wayne knew that not much is certain for their son's future. They said Chris lost much of his left leg and the part just below his knee on the right. But theirs is a military family, and if there's one thing they can do, it's fight.
"You know what? He's home. He's alive," Leigh added. "I can hug him. I can kiss him. The rest of that stuff, it's fixable."
"To go through what he's done and have that attitude, he can do anything," Wayne chimed in.
So, the Van Ettens have set a goal. All of them, including Chris with the help of physical therapy and prosthetics, want to run in the Marine Corp Marathon a year from October in Washington, DC.