Examining the Value of One Life…

Last night my wife and I watched a most extraordinary movie.  ‘Taking Chance’ is an HBO production starring Kevin Bacon, and in the opinion of this author is Academy Award worthy, both for actor and movie in 2009.  Oddly enough, you have probably yet to hear of it, and if you visit ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ or ‘Box Office Mojo” you won’t find even a single review.  While the world immerses itself in the untimely demise of a certain pop entertainer, let us here and now examine the value of one notable life.


I had never heard of Private First Class (posthumously promoted to Lance Corporal) Chance Phelps prior to this movie.  I am grateful to the makers of this outstanding production that I now know of him. We Americans need to know our heroes, as we have so few these days and most choices wind up being the ‘wrong ones’ as it is.  Please visit Chance Phelps for a short bio of this great young American.

‘Taking Chance’ is a mere 78 minutes long, with the DVD providing many extra features, all worth watching.  Normally you wouldn’t believe 78 minutes long enough to tell a tale as effectively as this movie does, however, don’t be fooled, you will be moved and you won’t forget it.

An understated Bacon portrays Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, the real life Marine having volunteered for the job to escort the fallen Operation Iraqi Freedom vet Phelps back home to his family in Wyoming.  Bacon has relatively few lines in this movie, and excels in conveying emotion and inner thought with facial expression and body language alone, an exquisite performance on his part. He looks older now, he looks mature, and he looked every bit as moved in this role as he managed to move me.

Strobl volunteers for the military escort job despite the somewhat rare nature of so high ranking an officer doing so. In addition, this is not a easy job, it is emotionally challenging and requires extreme attention to detail every step of the way.  Part of the story is the author, Strobl himself, a fine man, but never having seen the type of conflict, the horror and mayhem, of battle as did the young Chance.  By his own admission he had become a ‘desk jockey.’  Now a mature Marine approaching retirement, Strobl felt an obligation to bear the burden of escorting and presenting the young, and unusually highly decorated, Marine to the Phelps family.  As you will see, this is no small honor, or commitment.

When the Marines use words like honor, code and commitment, this movie demonstrates what they mean.  The detail of the escort process should be known to every American, and this movie should be SEEN by every American.  One cannot know how any given event will impact the lives of people on the periphery, and that is one of the most significant aspects of this film.  You will see how this one Marine – in death – affects the lives of people throughout the entire process while being transported.


Chance Phelps died a hero, a death that saved the lives of others, yet even prior to that lead a significant and meaningful life worth remembering.   The film allows you insight into a young man anyone would regard as a wonderful person, the kind of person people are proud to call friend, son, or fellow Marine.  To be honest, after watching this movie I regretted not having the privilege of personally knowing him. His was a life worth celebrating and a death worth honoring. Watching the way our military handles the return of just one fallen warrior was moving beyond words; it’s all about value, the value of one life.

A fine sight to visit if you’re interested in the escort process can be found here Honor the Fallen

I’d like to believe that it isn’t too preposterous a pipe dream to hope that every child in America, every child in the public education system, sees this movie. I believe it should be required viewing. Required. This movie ensures that all but the hardest hearted person and most anti-war liberal will walk away with a new found respect for America’s military.  You will gain a much greater respect for the quality of character those in our armed services – and their families – possess (as a whole), and the deep love they have for our country, you and I, and their fellow servicemen.  This is amazing and uncommon stuff once you grasp it.

My daughter is currently in Army boot camp as I write this, and to say that I was wishing she and I were watching this movie together is an understatement. However, having said that I can also rejoice in the hope that we will have that moment together, and that tears will probably be shed, and that an understanding which surpasses words will be shared.

The Bible says this about the kind of love that Chance Phelps had:

John 15:13 – Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

And his enemies.  Many rally cause against everything for which this young man stood, yet fight for them he did, as well.

Today, even as this is being written, millions are mourning the passing of Michael Jackson, a (spiritually) poor, wretched, person, who basically accomplished very little in life other than performance in return for quite a bit of cash. (Please don’t jump, it’s true, just let it sink in.) I’d like to raise a toast to one Chance Phelps, and the others like him, forgotten heroes who our children and Americans of all kinds can truly look up to can truly honor, without a shadow of doubt or guilt.

Chance Phelps really was /is a hero, and I pray that this movie helps his memory live on, and that we never forget him and those like him.

Semper Fidelis to all you great men and women, Semper Fidelis.


1 Comment

  1. Luke Hamilton /

    Amen, brother. This is my favorite film of 2009. The DVD extras were excellent. The film itself is so well put together that I kept forgetting that it was a true story, based on Strobl’s journal detailing the events.

    What does it say that this is the most-watched HBO Original movie ever? Americans want to hear about these heroic men and women!

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