Sunday, February 15, 2009

Remembering Lance Corporal Chance Phelps

The following article discusses the upcoming HBO movie “Taking Chance”, the moving story of the return of the remains of American warrior Lance Corporal Phelps to his family. This will be broadcast next Saturday and you can see more about the movie at

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Moving salute to the fallen

Hal Boedeker
Orlando Sentinel Columnist
February 15, 2009

Concise and deeply moving, Taking Chance tells a true story that has been repeated often but rarely depicted.

The HBO movie, which premieres at 8 p.m. Saturday, explains how the military treats war dead with great care and respect. The film also dramatizes how the public often responds to military sacrifices: Airline workers and passengers pause to pay tribute. Drivers put on their lights. Children watch with awe.

Taking Chance presents these scenes with simplicity and understatement. Running only 78 minutes, the film doesn't linger over emotional moments. There's no need to embellish when a tearful reservations worker thanks a Marine for his service or a flight attendant gives a small cross to show her regard.

That restraint deepens this tribute to Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps, a 19-year-old Marine who was killed in Iraq in 2004. The movie is based on Lt. Col. Michael Strobl's journal of how he escorted Phelps' body home to Wyoming.

Strobl and director Ross Katz wrote the screenplay. They make a couple of missteps. They invent a scene of Strobl watching Phelps' remains overnight in an airport cargo area. They also briefly take the focus off Phelps and let Strobl open up about his guilt about not fighting in Iraq. Good thing an old veteran shuts up Strobl.

Otherwise, as Strobl, lean Kevin Bacon looks every inch a Marine and responds with a disciplined, poignant performance. Most effective in the brief supporting roles are Tom Wopat and Ann Dowd as Phelps' parents, Gordon Clapp as a pilot and Julie White as a straight-talking colonel.

The movie mostly steers clear of politics, although a driver wonders what we're doing in Iraq. Mainly, Taking Chance educates the public on the humbling, difficult process of escorting the bodies home. It's not an easy lesson, but it's powerfully worthwhile. The movie ends with photos and home movies of Phelps.

Hal Boedeker can be reached at 407-420-5756 or

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Charles M. Grist


  1. RIP Lance Corporal Phelps...

    I just watched the movie... It was so moving. Being that I served a year tour in Iraq and have watched many soliders lose their lives - it makes me think how grateful I am for 1. to have been able to return home to my family. 2. it showed me again how we take for granted certain things...

    My sympathies go out to Chance's family and to all the families of all the fallen soldiers...

    May God bless all the soldiers and their families. Please end this war so that we stop losing innocent lives...

    SGT Vanessa Whitney
    US Army

  2. I saw the movie today 2-21- Jose Dejesus, Marine corporal. MCRD --Pendlenton.03 infantry grunt.The movie was moving. I rarely break down, but i did when i saw the movie. I heled back the tears as my wife walked across the living room.I wiped the tears before she walked back. I don't like to let people see me like that. I do anything to be in Iraq, but Uncle Sam doesn't want old Marines in combat.
    Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, Semper Fi Marine. OOORAH.

  3. He is more than you know to me. I love him but never meet him. He will be with me forever. He gave more than himself. But What he gave was hope to all now. Please believe me when I say that he has made such an impact on me that I give you all my whole heart, and know that he was here for a purpose, and he fofilled that porpose. I only hope that my purpose will mean so much.

  4. As I just finish wiping my last tear for watching Taking Chance I felt compelled to comment. Even though I didn't personally know him Chance gave his life for me and my family. For that I will be forever greatful. I have two nephews who are marines, one if in Iraq right now, and Chance helped me feel more connected to them. I understand more now their choice to become marines. I also want to thank Chance's family for sharing his story. May God shine upon you nothing but joy from here on out!

  5. What a remarkable story of a American hero who was brought home by a man who did not miss a beat. This is what makes our brother hood as strong as it is I cryed like a little baby. Chance I will see you at the pearly gates my friend. Semper Fi Gysgt Gadomski Ret

  6. It is at least the fifth time that I am watching the movie. And I believe as long as they are showing it to HBO I will keep watching it. Very moving of course, but I cannot think about the number of young life lost in Irak in particular. If I understand the need to go to war in Afghanistan, I am confused with the Irak war. Young life is so precious,but our former president with questionable military history, did not hesitate to engage the USA in a very questionable conflict. No doubt in my mind that all marines engaged in Irak are heroes, and I am just glad that the remains of our fallen heroes are treated with such respect. They deserve only our admiration.

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  8. I had neither seen nor heard of the movie before watching it tonight (05/24/09). I was pretty sure it was true, but not 100%. (I hope that doesn't sound irreverent, it's not meant to). But, as I watched, the thought kept running through my mind, I wanted everything to be true except the loss of this exceptional young man.
    Watching as Lt. Col. Strobl & Lance Corp Phelps traveled to Phelps' home, I was in tears most of the time at the reactions of others, at the "cushion" those other travelers provided as Strobl & Phelps traveled.
    My final thought was a sad one, "Why does it take a death of this nature for us to show this kind of respect?!"
    A journey like those shown in this movie should never be necessary. I don't just mean Phelps' final journey home. I mean the journey to war. But when men & women such as these take it upon themselves to take these journeys, we should show them the utmost respect as they travel. As long as they travel & where ever they travel. Not just upon their deaths. They are truly dong what they are being called to do & should be afforded respect accordingly.

  9. As a pre-teen I remember my dad taking me to see "Platoon" and in the opening credits a poem was flashed. I looked over to see my big strong dad crying. I will never forget that as he served in Korea but was wounded and subsequently was not cleared to go to Vietnam with his brothers in arms. He shared with me how that bothered him still. I tell this story because now that I am a grown woman with children and a husband who served in the military until 1993, this movie touched me - Chance Phelps touched me. My father passed away a few years ago, but this would have been a story that would have again, touched him and brought back his time of service of which he was so proud. I know that my dad and Chance are sharing stories and praying that we, those left behind are learning the lessons of their lives.

  10. Thank all that have served

    Marine Dad
    Ross, Ohio

  11. Chance Phelps, a real American..

    Chance did his duty as he saw it. He never questioned why, but felt an obligation to do his part after 9/11. That was his decision and an honorable one at that. These comments are for a great young man not a place for political agendas.

  12. My family and I enjoyed our 11 year old son play in a baseball tournament on this beautiful Memorial day weekend. I watched the movie when I got home and like others had tears in my eyes throughout the entire movie. I realize even more how fortunate we are to have the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces that allow us the opportunity to live the lives we do in this great country. My family and I thank you all especially to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice!!!

    God Bless You and watch over you!

  13. May his family know that his honor has convinced me that my rightfull place in this world will be to join the armed forces and uphold the valor and sacrifice their son gave by serving the country he gave his life to defend . Never have I even considered military life an option , but I would like to show his family that his death has inspired me to help save life. May god bless them all, his spirit will live on.

  14. I want to thank you for sharing your journey home with us. The line at the end of the movie that says,"I didnt know him in life but I miss him now" hits home to me too. For every soldier who puts on the Uniform I give you my whole heart. For every Parent, spouce or child I give you my Tears and for every soldier who stands in gods gateway. I give you my soul. you are my heros and I miss you.
    Thank you for sharing your journey home and thank you for loving your country and families so much that you gave your life for not only them but me. THANK YOU

  15. To those of you who don't understand why people like Lance Corporal Chance Phelps and so many others have to make this sacrifice, please allow me to borrow a line from Chance's platoon commander.

    "If the WORLD had more people like Chance Phelps, there wouldn't be a need for a Marine Corps"

    To put it plainly, as long as there are people in this world hellbent on flying planes into skyscrapers or blowing up subways, we will need to send our young men and women off to fight.

    I can only conclude that the majority of those who do not agree with our actions in Iraq have never taken the time to assess the situation, dating back to the first Gulf War that was never concluded. Many of the same "leaders" who are now spearheading the antiwar movement are those who helped put us there in the first place, yet their actions go unquestioned.

    The Iraq war is NOT "payback" for 9/11, it is about helping to prevent 9/12...or 12/14....or 03/20. It is a "Global War" on terror, which means eliminating threats before they become a cause to retaliate.

    After the Gulf War Cease Fire, Iraq ignored UN resolution after UN resolution. Weapons inspectors repeatedly were NOT allowed into Iraq to conduct thorough inspections. The few times they were, they were told by Saddam Hussein WHERE they were allowed to search.

    If you were hiding drugs in your house and didn't allow the police in to search, just what are the odds they'd find any when they entered 10 years after the fact? Slim and none. Iraq DID have weapons of mass destruction, EVERYONE with an ounce of common sense knows that. The 5,000 Kurds killed in 1988 in Hallabjah know that, as well as the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who were killed by Iraqi WMDs.

    I could go on and on, but I shouldn't have to explain what should be so painfully obvious to all. Try doing some OBJECTIVE research and stop allowing others to dictate your thoughts.

    In closing, Chance Phelps is a is everyone who has ever donned a uniform to protect our freedoms. Dying for one's beliefs is a very noble death, but no death is more noble than dying to protect the beliefs of others, even if they're often contrary to your own. That's the sacrifice our heroes have made.

    Semper Fidelis

  16. My brother, Trooper Mark Wilson, of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, was killed on Thanksgiving weekend of 2006 in Kandahar Afghanistan. I just watched the story of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, and I wanted to say Thank you to he and his family. God bless all of our soldiers. Sincerely, Sean Wilson, London,ON., Canada.

  17. After watching the movie of Lance cpl Chance Phelps,I just want to say how very grateful I'am to all you men and women all over the world who are risking their lives to serve and protect their country with pride.To the family of Lance cpl Phelps,I offer my deepest condolences.Know that there is a special place for him in heaven.My cousin was killed in Viet Nam in 1967,so I feel your loss.

  18. If you have not seen it yet please pick up a copy of Taking Chance at a video store to rent or to own. This soldiers story is about the most inspirational I have ever seen.

    Also visit the article I wrote as a review of this movie at,

    Rev Michael Bresciani

  19. This was such an inspirational story of not only courage but of humanity. I was crying after the first few minutes of the movie. These young men that choose to serve their country deserve to be treated like heroes. I myself have never served in the Armed Forces but have many family members who have, thank you to all who have served or will serve their country.

  20. Very touching and emotional movie To all that serve for my freedom; THANK YOU. Prayers to all, a Marine mom.

  21. Touching and emotional movie. Thank you for all that serve and protect and put their lives forward for my freedom. Prayers to all.
    A Marine Mom

  22. i was overwhelmed with emotion.God bless the Phelps family and all the families of our fallen soldiers.