The stirring HBO movie “Taking Chance”brought tears to my eyes. It shows the reverence, dignity, honor, and respect with which soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are brought home.
Starring Kevin Bacon and premiering today on HBO, it was shown at
Michael Strobl - Credit: PBS.org
Sundance Film Festival and competed for the Grand Jury Prize. Kevin plays Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, who volunteers – out of some seeming guilt at not being in Iraq himself – to escort the body of 19-year-old Private First Class Chance Phelps home.
PFC Chance Phelps
Chance was killed in Iraq on April 9, 2004. Strobl and those who assisted at each point along the way with transporting the body of PFC Phelps were deeply impacted and respectful and the cost of war was felt by all.
Lt. Col. Strobl is a Desert Storm veteran and served in the Marine Corps from 1983-2007. He daily read the list of Marines killed in Iraq and came across the name of PFC Phelps, who was from his home town in Colorado. That made his decision to serve as an escort for Phelps’ body personal and something he felt he had to do.
He kept a journal on his experience of escorting PFC Phelps home and from this came an article for the Marine Corps Gazette, which was published in July, 2004. I cannot access that article, but found a shorter version of it, which was published online at OrthodoxyToday.org in May, 2004. The article was widely circulated on the Internet and touched many people. It was given to Executive Producer Brad Krevoy when he attended the funeral of a friend’s son, who was killed in Iraq. He contacted Chance’s family and they agreed to allow the story to made into a film. Stobl went on to co-write the screenplay for the movie.
From the HBO site for this film:
‘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.
The life and death of Chance Phelps have touched a lot of people. The Chance Phelps Organization sponsors Run4Chance races and gives the proceeds to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, which helps them to “…continue [their] vital mission of service to our wounded and critically ill Marines, Sailors and their families.”
Here is a short HBO clip on taking the story from script to screen. Kevin Bacon, Lt. Col Strobl, and others are interviewed about the story and the movie. HBO will be showing this many times . I hope that you will check out the schedule and make a point to watch it. It is incredibly moving.
Coffins of Soldiers Killed in Iraq being Taken off Plane at Dover Air Force Base - Credit: AFP, Getty Images
UPDATE: On 2/26/09 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that photos can now be taken of flag-draped coffins of soldiers if the family of the deceased soldier agrees.
UPDATE 4/5/09: For the first time in 18 years, the media today witnessed the return of a soldier killed overseas. You can read about it here.
UPDATE 7/16/09: Today it was announced that this movie is nominated for an Emmy Award for best made for television movie and Kevin Bacon is also nominated for an Emmy Award as best actor in a made for television movie.
UPDATE 1/17/10: Today Kevin Bacon won a Golden Globe for his role in this movie. The movie was also nominated for a Golden Globe award.
Michael R. Strobl (born c. 1966) is a retired U.S. Marine Corpsofficer from Stafford, Virginia.
Michael joined the service when he was 17 years old as told in the movie Taking Chance (2009).
After serving in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Strobl was assigned a desk job at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Virginia during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Feeling guilty that Marines he served with in the Gulf War were serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom while he wasn't, Strobl volunteered to escort the remains of a fallen Marine to his home in the United States.
Strobl escorted home PFC Chance Phelps, a Marine killed in the Iraq War on April 9, 2004 (Good Friday), outside Ar Ramadi, Iraq.
Strobl was working at a desk job, but volunteered to escort PFC Phelps home. He initially did this because the press release concerning the death of PFC Phelps had listed Clifton, Colorado as his hometown, a town near Strobl's hometown of Grand Junction. But the final destination and resting place of PFC Phelps would be Dubois, Wyoming, Phelps having only lived in Clifton for his senior year of high school.
During the trip, Strobl kept a diary of the experience and his feelings. After he concluded the mission, he wrote an essay entitled "A Marine's Journey Home" from the notes in the diary and shared it with Phelps's father John. The essay appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 2, 2004 (with the approval of John Phelps), and then a longer version (of 5,375 words) appeared in the July issue of Marine Corps Gazette as "Taking Chance".
Strobl's 12-page narrative essay followed his journey with the remains of PFC Phelps from the military mortuary at Dover Air Force Base to Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Billings, Riverton, and Dubois.
Strobl's essay became the subject of an HBO film, Taking Chance, in 2009. He helped write the screenplay, and he was portrayed in the film by Kevin Bacon. Subsequently, he co-won the Writers Guild of America Award in Long Form Adaptation in Television at the Writers Guild of America Awards 2009 and was co-nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Dramatic Special, both with Ross Katz.
Decorations and awards
Strobl received the Vietnam Veterans of America President's Award for Excellence in the Arts at the organization's national convention in Louisville, Kentucky in August 2009.