(Glendale, UT) - An active duty soldier with Utah ties was killed while riding his bicycle on a military base in North Carolina earlier this month.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Neil Harris, 33, was hit by a vehicle driven by contractors stationed at Camp Lejeune just after 6:00 AM on July 18. His family said that while he had totaled several motorcycles in his lifetime, and was uninjured from those accidents, Harris died doing what he loved.
"He had an adventurous spirit and he loved being outdoors," said the soldier's mother, Laura Harris. The night before his death, Harris had been kayaking off the coast of North Carolina and had seen dolphins, she said, adding that the news of her son's death has kept her on a "roller coaster of emotions."
"It's hard to think that you don't have the opportunity to hold him again, even though he's a grown man," she said. "It's hard to think that you won't be able to talk to him on the phone again. But I know he had a great life, and though we may think it was short, there is a reason and a plan for everything."
Harris is the oldest of four and was born in Layton and raised in Florida. He most recently lived with his newlywed wife, Susan Sorenson Harris, in the Glendale area.
"He was an amazing person," she said, adding that her husband of nearly three months loved southern Utah. The couple was to celebrate their recent marriage at a wedding reception Saturday. His family instead was planning for a funeral.
"It amazes me all the love I have felt through all of this," Susan Sorenson Harris said. "I've felt it from family, from friends, from people I don't even know. He is a fallen soldier, he wasn't in battle or at war when he died, but he's a veteran and returned from a tour in Afghanistan last year."
Harris joined the Navy in August 2008 and was promoted to the rank of Fleet Marine Force corpsman in June. He was assigned to the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion of the 2nd Marine Division based near Jacksonville, in North Carolina. He was a decorated soldier, who made friends everywhere he went, according to friend and colleague Adam Sager.
"He was the best friend any guy could ask for," Sager said. "He was the one that always kept morale up. When things were down in the dumps, he would be there to put a smile on everybody's face."
Sager said Harris was a jokester, but when necessary, he was always prepared and "the Boy Scout" of the group.
"He was always looking out for his shipmates and always taking care of us," he said. "He will be missed."
Funeral services for Harris will be held at 11:00 AM Saturday at the Glendale LDS chapel.