Saturday, February 14, 2009

Taking Chance

HBO has done a pretty good job of producing important films about the Iraq war like Baghdad ER and Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery, which I have written about here. HBO will show a new film called “Taking Chance” starting February 21, 2009, which I also recommend. Chance is Lance Corporal Chance Phelps who was killed in Iraq in April 2004. "Taking Chance" is the story of the Escort Officer who escorts the body of Lance Corporal Phelps home from Dover AFB in Delaware to Chance's final resting place in Wyoming. HBO provides this synopsis:

In April 2004, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, USMC, came across the name of 19-year-old Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, a young Marine who had been killed by hostile fire in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Strobl, a Desert Storm veteran with 17 years of military service, requested that he be assigned for military escort duty to accompany Chance's remains to his family in Dubois, Wyo.

Witnessing the spontaneous outpouring of support and respect for the fallen Marine - from the groundskeepers he passed along the road to the cargo handlers at the airport - Strobl was moved to capture the experience in his personal journal. His first-person account, which began as an official trip report, gives an insight into the military's policy of providing a uniformed escort for all casualties. The story became an Internet phenomenon when it was widely circulated throughout the military community and eventually reached the mainstream media.

'Taking Chance' chronicles one of the silent, virtually unseen journeys that takes place every day across the country, bearing witness to the fallen and all those who, literally and figuratively, carry them home. A uniquely non-political film about the war in Iraq, the film pays tribute to all of the men and women who have given their lives in military service as well as their families.

My older sister, a retired Army nurse sent me LTC Strobl's article in August 2004, about 2 months after my son 1Lt Ken Ballard was killed. She had seen the story in April 2004 when it was first posted on the internet but she saved it to show me after Ken returned from Iraq and was out of harms way. It didn’t turn out that way. I had seen the article when Ken was still alive and was extremely moved by Lt Col Strobl’s story. Military families are told that the journey home from Iraq or Afghanistan was one filled with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, the Bush administration had done a good job of keeping the honors afforded our casualties a secret with the ban on photographs of flag covered caskets. This film shows us the journey and we are able to see of the dignity and respect. We will see a glimpse of the outpouring of respect and sympathy along the journey as well as the military traditions that are performed as a flag covered casket makes it's final journey home.

When Ken's body was returned to San Francisco airport on that awful day in June 2004, the civilian airline employees & TSA employees stood in silence with their hats respectfully removed as they watched his flag covered casket being offloaded from the plane and loaded into the hearse, just as the trailer shows. Ken's personal effects, his dog tags, his Cavalry spurs and his unit belt buckle were given to me when we arrived at our hometown, just as the journal describes. I imagine the rest of the journey of Ken's escort officer paralleled that of LTC Strobl. When you watch this film, remember that this isn't Hollywood; this honorable and difficult journey has taken place in the United States nearly 5000 times since October 2001.



Thanks to HBO, Kevin Bacon, Brad Krevoy, Cathy Wischer-Sola, William Teitler, Lori Keith Douglas, Ross Katz, and Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl for their part in making this film and for understanding that this is a story that needs to be told. Special thanks to Chance’s family for allowing the story to be told and for letting the country share in your grief.

Special thoughts to the nearly 5000 families and the brave men and women who perform the duties of an Escort officer. Thank you for taking care of our loved ones.

4 comments:

TJ said...

I watched Section 60 this week-it had me in tears from start to finish. The man who slept on his son's grave every day was absolutely heart-wrenching.
I watched Taking Chance,and it had me crying from the start straight through. Just silent tears of sympathy and understanding, as much as a mom whose son did come home alive can understand, anyway.
I'm glad they made the movie, and that you can know how much your son was respected on his journey home.
Hopefully it will also remind Americans that there are still many deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan every week. The DoD notices still come to my email box and there seems to be at least 1-2 every day. My heart breaks for those moms each time.
God Bless.

Wolf said...

You just don't get it, do you?
Ma'am, I'm VERY sorry for your loss, and deeply grateful for his sacrice, as well as yours.

But ma'am, you're being used in a way that makes Cindy Sheehan look amateur.

Once those images start pouring in from Dover, and they WILL, they will be prominent on blogs and sites NOT any any respectful way, but in a way that will allow those who oppose protecting our nation in any way, shape, or form to abuse those who have served, and have the least capability of defending their rights and images.

You have worked to better YOURSELF and YOUR CAUSE, not your son's.

I'm sorry, you should be ashamed. I served myself, I have those in my family who have sacrificed. YOU have done them a dishonor.

Anonymous said...

Wolf, thank you for your service but you need to turn off Fox News. There isn't one side to everything and one side only.
The public needs to see the sacrifices of these moms, dads, sisters, brothers etc. I remember the coffin pictures and on the news when I was growing up. Made me reflect.
Only the far right HannityandRusharemy savior people talk like you.

Wolf said...

Anon- If you are going to address me that way, come out of the 'dark'. Don't hide. Man-up, so to speak.
I'm not some 'Fox News' aficionado. Not some overly- compensating patriot. What this has done is give ammunition to the freaks, lame-os, and hate-mongers who want to see us 'lose' and become sheeple. Not to mention, al-Queda sites will use these, photoshop them, and hail victory for their 'martyrs' around the globe.
YOU need to wake up. Freedom will never be free. And there are PLENTY of those out there that will take it from you in a heart beat.
How many countries have you ever visited outside North America?

Wolf
ps= I'm not hiding, either. My real email is at this posting address.