GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– You could say the theme of war veteran Chris Wiers’ time in Iraq was protection. He was a Marine combat engineer who built up defenses to protect U.S. bases. But, it was Chris’s second tour in Iraq that changed his life.
Chris changed jobs, but his mission to keep his fellow troops safe remained. He worked to clear roads of mines so U.S. convoys could get around.
“If I found a mine or IED, I’d get out and blow it up.”
On Oct. 6, 2005, his life changed. Chris was with his fellow soldiers ahead of a large U.S. convoy in the Iraqi desert when he noticed Arabic writing on the side of the road. He then saw people leaving the nearby town in a hurry. Chris thought something was strange and called for a mine detector. Because there was not a mine detector available, he and his crew were told to keep moving so as to not hold up the large convoy coming.
“Any other day of the week I would have been like, no we need to get this figured out,” explained Chris. “But that day I was just like, ‘All right, let’s get going.'”
Chris noticed his buddy who was driving the truck, began steering too close to the side of the road.
“I reached forward with my right arm to hit him on the shoulder to tell him to get back in the middle of the road, and my arm never made it to his shoulder,” remembers Chris.
A mine blew up their truck. Chris was told the blast sent him 30 to 40 feet in the air. He landed on his head and arms.
“I had diesel fuel and oil and all sorts of crap in my eyes,” explained Chris. “I had shrapnel in my left eye.”
His two buddies in the front of the truck were killed on impact. Chris remembers them now from pictures.
He said, at first, life after the military was difficult, trying to fit back into civilian life and figure out what he was supposed to do. Chris finds comfort talking with other vets at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, and meeting at the American Legion Hall.
The expert military rifleman also keeps up his skills by hunting around West Michigan. Looking back, Chris accomplished quite a bit in his time as a Marine. He made Corporal and helped keep his fellow troops safe. He also earned the Purple Heart, an award that certainly carries a lot of meaning, but that no soldier strives to earn.