Thursday, July 5, 2012
I'm not one for war movies, I'm not one for propaganda, I'm not one for political agendas or discussion of war as an anecdote, and yet this past Memorial Day I was compelled to watch in its entirety more than once (it was on various HBOs all day long) the HBO original movie Taking Chance. Taking Chance is a breath-taking look at an aspect of war we seldom think about, that of bringing our fallen soldiers home.
Chance Phelps died on Good Friday 2004 when his convoy came under attack and he continued firing to ensure the safety of those under his watch. He was 19 and not unlike any of the men and women I know, friends and former students who have been changed or have changed others by what they have experienced in the Middle East. I'm sure we all have personal stories of people who have gone to war as one person and come back as another and, I'm sure that we all have stories of people we know who didn't come back at all. This movie not only makes you think about those people (I will leave you to think about your stories and your people as I think of mine; one of which is about a boy who now has a bridge named after him and another is about a friend my mother had who died in Vietnam) it brings home the fact that those men and women and their stories do not just belong to you. There are several scenes at the end of the movie, such as an anecdote about Chance going out to defend his friends in nothing but a gun and shower shoes, a touching moment with his family as they are being given his personal effects and a montage of video clips, that show us who Chance Phelps was to those around him. The film, however, focuses on who Chance becomes to LtCol Michael Strobl, the man who volunteered to take him across country back to his family and it focuses on who Chance becomes to us, the people to whom he gave his last measure of devotion.
I bring this movie up and am writing about it (over a month after my initial viewing) because I was/am moved beyond measure. In a time where the media and political attitude go out of their way to treat our presence in the Middle East as nothing but fodder for debate and late night news ratings this movie brings home the fact that we are all (whether we are for or against our presence on foreign soil and no matter what we see as the reasons there) one country flying under the flag of the United States of America and when one of us dies, in the armed forces or as a civilian, we should all mourn the loss and celebrate the life of that person. We don't know how they have touched and will continue to touch us and shape us.
If only all movies could be this subtle and beautiful.
Read the essay that inspired the movie here.
Learn more about PFC Chance Phelps here.