Taking Chance is a simple HBO film starring Kevin Bacon as Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, one of very few officers ever to volunteer to escort the remains of a fallen Marine back to his family for burial. The film follows how those KIA are cared for, beginning in Dover AFB, Delaware, where 20-year-old PFC Chance Phelps' identity is confirmed, his body cleaned, his personal effects inventoried and steamed for presentation to his family. Phelps' remains are accompanied across the country by his volunteer military escort who is so affected by the experience that he writes this story. The movie is based on actual events. Chance Phelps was a real person and the photographs and videos shown right before the ending credits introduce a young boy, maybe around the age of eight, goofing off for the camera. I think that, at the age of 20, Chance was a still young boy when he was killed in Iraq after being shot in the head.
One memory that is always with me is the one I have of walking past the Rec Center on Andrews Air Force Base, months after the gymnasium had been closed in order to serve as a triage center for servicemen returning from Desert Storm. I was 14 years old and shocked to see a man with one leg using one of his crutches to prop open a heavy metal door. My curiosity got the best of me and I couldn't help but stare. Behind him were more men and a few actually waved to me. Most were confined to their hospital beds and some were missing limbs, too. That is the moment war became real to me.
I've mentioned many times before that I'm very proud to have been raised in the military family. I say the military family because my own military family was just a small part of it. Everyone should be so lucky to experience firsthand the camaraderie that goes with being a part of this military family. I became an official civilian in 1996 but I never stopped supporting the troops, even before it became controversially trendy.
Some websites to visit:
Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund
Vietnam Veterans of America - click on "community" then "household good donations", it's an easy way to show your support!
Adopt a US Soldier
It's gonna be a long time before they all come home. Don't forget about them. Amidst all this yammering about whether or not it's politically correct to allow photographs of flag-draped caskets to be shown on television, HBO took a story from those photographs and put a name and face to one of the deceased. It's about damn time! Of course, we don't want to see pictures like this - but it's a war and people are dying. Take a look outside of your house right now and count how many American flags you see in your neighborhood. That's what I thought. Until there are more American flags being displayed around our cities, then pictures of caskets draped in American flags need to be shoved down our throats.
I will now step down from my soapbox.