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Taking Chance – if you don’t get what’s great about America, maybe this movie will show you

Conservatives, patriots, military veterans, families and close friends of military, and plain average Americans will instantly get this movie. There’s no surprise in it for them, although it is gripping from beginning to end. But this movie wasn’t made for them, not really. It was made for the person who doesn’t quite *get* it. If you have allowed yourself to be persuaded by those who:

  • think the term American Exceptionalism is smug and self-congratulatory
  • don’t believe America is the bright shining symbol of freedom on a hill
  • think that America’s history is dominated by government-sanctioned oppression, racism, and the haves stealing from the working have-nots (other than the last 2 years, I mean )
  • think the model of ordered freedom needs to be replaced by a grand scheme controlled by smart, benevolent leaders
  • have no earthly idea why young American men would flock to recruiting offices by the thousand to sign up for a war in Iraq that could very well get them killed
  • think America owes you something, but you don’t owe anything back

but something in your heart gives you the lie, that recognizes something dissonant about it late at night, when it’s just you and your thoughts….

then this movie is for you. Because you don’t get America, but you could. Somewhere in you beats the heart of an American. And there is something splendid, wonderful, and liberating about finally surrendering to the beauty of America.

Taking Chance is the true story of the journey, in April 2004, of the body of PFC Chance Phelps — killed in action — from Iraq to his family in Wyoming, told from the journal of his military escort, LTC Michael Strobl. It was an HBO movie in 2009, and it’s since been released to DVD. You can also get it through NetFlix or the torrents.


I’ll not give you the whole story here, only a little. See it yourself. Let it speak to you, and teach you something about what lies at the heart of America. Before that, you can read Colonel Strobl’s original journal about it, published by BlackFive [BlackFive = teh strong online warrior for the troops for many years] on April 27, 2004, ten days after the funeral. It’s not that long of a read, and it’ll prepare you some for the power that the movie will extend over you.

So, just a few notes that struck me, in hopes you’ll give this movie a look:

  • You get some measure of the man that PFC Phelps was. He certainly was a courageous man of honor, who died far too young at age 20.
  • The countless Americans –unbidden, unnoticed, and unthanked for the most part — who along the journey spontaneously poured themselves out in love and respect to the memory and the family and loved ones of fallen soldiers, beginning with the extraordinary grace and tender devotion of the military detail at Dover AFB tasked with preparing the bodies.
  • Gratitude. Real Americans are thankful. Thankful to be American, and tremendously thankful to soldiers who fight for America and everything we stand for.
  • It vexed Colonel Strobl that so many people thanked him — HIM, the military escort — for his service, when he was nothing more than the caretaker of the remains of a brave patriot who had given the last full measure of devotion for his country. What Strobl came to understand, I think, is that people felt the sacrifice of PFC Phelps demanded that his remains be given the highest respect. Phelps was dead, and it was not possible to thank him. But it was possible to thank the man who assured Phelps was transported and buried in the manner befitting a fallen warrior.

This movie is about one — one — journey like that. Since the war against militant Islamism worldwide has commenced, there have been 5703 of these journeys as of this writing, according to CentCom. Every one brought home a patriot like Chance Phelps. Every one was escorted by another devoted soldier like Michael Strobl. I can’t prove it, but I feel certain that every journey like this was touched similarly by many grateful Americans along the way.

Why? Because this is America, and these are Americans. Like we always do, we learned something from our past sins and became better. America looked at its own soul after the way soldiers were treated coming home from Viet Nam, and said Never Again. Never again will we fail to honor the fallen who served, or for that matter, the living who served.

So, if you don’t get what is special about America and Americans but you would like to, then find and watch Taking Chance.

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