Monday, August 31, 2009

Taking Chance - A Must See Movie

This is the true story of the death of a young marine, Lance Corporal Chance Phelps. The main theme is the transport of his body back to the US, the preparations for his final burial and the transport of his remains to his family in Wyoming. The movie is an exceptionally well executed portrayal of military traditions and the deep respect afforded to fallen soldiers. In the words of the movie's director, "the love and care marines have for one another." Kevin Bacon has had a number of roles. His portrayal of Marine Lt. Colonel Strobl shows a troubled man, deeply conflicted about the war in Iraq. A combat veteran himself, at the time of the death of Marine Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, he is assigned to a position as an analyst in the Pentagon. The Colonel feels guilty because he is stationed safely back in the US, while too many young people are dying. His feelings typify those who wonder why their friends have died and yet they have survived. So, the Colonel volunteers to escort young Phelps back to this parents, trying to do something to fill a deep need. In presenting Chance's personal effects to his family, the Colonel explains that all along the journey, young Chance was shown "Dignity, Respect and Honor." I was struck by the utter respect, love and honor provided to the young marine. We are shown how reverently service people, enlisted and commissioned officers, clean and prepare the body, washing it and then sewing a perfectly fitting uniform so that the young marine could be "properly squared away." The military traditions shown in the movie left me with moist eyes as on each time the casket was moved on and off an aircraft, the Colonel slowly saluted and civilians paused and doffed head gear and bowed their heads. There were more than a few illustrative scenes , but the one which was most memorable for me was on the road trip from the Wyoming airport to the church, a 5 hour trip along a two lane highway. Lt. Colonel Strobl is following the hearse in his rental sedan. A truck driver moves to pass the car and hearse and as he passes, the driver recognizes that the casket has a US flag draped on it and there is a marine officer escorting it. The driver turns on his headlights, removes his cap and slowly passes the hearse and moves just ahead, keeping pace. A few more motorists pass, also recognizing the military casket and they, too, turn on their headlights. In a short time there is a long procession of cars escorting the hearse with their lights on and keeping pace. An anti-war activist might see this movie and say the theme is about the futility of war and wasted youth. I saw this movie as a story about the sacrificial love of a young man serving his country who died alongside his friends, saving many lives. On the way home, young Chance serves as a witness of the faithful service of our military to all who see the procession, and all are deeply touched and forever changed. The DVD for this film also tells how Lance Corporal Chance Phelps will be honored by having a Fisher House named for him to support the VA medical center in Salt Lake, Utah. Fisher Houses are family centers where family members of wounded military personnel can stay while visiting and supporting their soldiers.

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