Although November 11th is the actual date for Veterans Day, veterans’ appreciation is often expressed throughout the full month; stores offer discounts, restaurants offer free meals, even car dealerships offer discounts. For several days before and after the 11th, television stations play war movies, military specials, and historical documentaries of the military kind. This month is no different.
My wife and I just watched Taking Chance for the second time. The first time we watched it was soon after it came out in 2009. Although we had already seen it, we could not help but to stop flipping stations and watch it this afternoon. The movie is based on the real-life events of the U.S. Marine officer who volunteered to escort the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming.
This isn't a big budget action flick. There are no big battle scenes to get excited about. No forlorn love story between characters. No fantasy story-line with special effects. What it is, is both a heart wrenching and heart-warming story about the lives touched along the literal route taken to bring this young Marine’s body home.
Kevin Bacon stars in the film as a U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, who decides to personally escort the body of Marine Private First Class Chance Phelps to his home town. Chance was killed in action in Afghanistan. For those of you not aware, Lieutenant Colonels don't usually escort the remains of junior enlisted service members. Usually, the escort is only a few ranks higher than the deceased unless the deceased is a General, then it will be a senior officer escort, if not another General.
That's one of the important aspects of the film: Strobl's justification for Taking Chance home himself -- was initially a personal issue. The real benefactors of this senior officer escort's efforts are everyone he comes in contact with - from the first face to the last, as hearts are reminded that these are real people dying, young men and women fighting, the children of parents that will never see that son or daughter walk through their front door again. In small town U.S.A., even the community is affected by the loss of this one son.
Bacon's performance is excellent and convincing. In fact, he appears genuinely affected by the events portrayed in the story. Frankly, it would hard for anyone involved in the making of this film not to be emotionally affected.
From the scene at the commercial airport when the flight crew, baggage handlers and passengers all stop to pay their respects as they witness the coffin being taken from the cargo-hold; to the drive from the airport when traffic, recognizing a Marine driving a vehicle trailing a hearse, and as a result, instinctively bringing their vehicles in-line, with headlights on, to join the escort of this fallen Marine home, the viewer is given the opportunity to share the overwhelming sadness of the young man's passing, yet appreciation for the carrying acts of those that serve to witness this journey home.
Whether you served in the Armed Forces or not, the movie should trigger emotions in anyone who has lost a young family member or friend. In this movie, the death of this young Marine affects, not just those people that personally knew him, but everyone that comes in contact with Bacon's character and the transporting of the casket. As Chance is flown, driven, and carried to his final destination – each person takes a piece of the families' (and Bacon's) pain with them.