“You brought Chance home. You’re his witness now. Without a witness, they just disappear.”
Since the beginning of the Iraq war, the Department of Defense has identifed 4,246 American servicemen and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Behind the numbers are the names of people who have disappeared - in body, not in spirit - from the lives of those who love them.
"Taking Chance" is the true story (and HBO film) starring Kevin Bacon as Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, who volunteers to escort home the body of Pfc. Chance Phelps. On April 9, 2004, Chance was killed in Iraq while protecting his comrades from enemy fire. He was 20 years old. While reading a list of that day's casualities of war, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl recognizes that he and Chance hail from the same hometown; he then volunteers for escort duty, the military ritual where a Marine accompanies a fallen Marine through every step of his journey home.
It's a story that needed to be told. I had no idea this even happened, that there was an escort assigned to accompany every fallen person in the service. (I am unsure if this happens in other branches of the military, or if it is only the Marines.) "Taking Chance" chronicles every aspect of this saddest of journeys - from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany to the arrival at Dover Air Force Base, to the flights through Philadelphia and onto Wyoming. Along the way, the viewer sees the dignity, the respect, and the honor rightly given to our fallen heroes - not just from the military but from everyday citizens, young and old, black and white, men and women, everyone. In just 78 minutes, the film is packed with several incredibly poignant moments - the most moving for me being the two young kids in the airport, watching the unloading of Phelps' casket on the tarmac.
And yet, "Taking Chance" transcends politics without taking a position on the Iraq war. It sounds like an impossible feat, but the film accomplishes this superbly. It is a film about the myriad of ways, large and small, that our military are given the respect, honor, and dignity they so richly deserve as they journey home.
Here is a link to a clip from the movie with commentary by Kevin Bacon. I highly recommend this movie, especially for young adults. It's important for everyone to see the way this is conducted and to remember the ultimate sacrifice made by those 4,246 who should never be forgotten.