Monday, February 16, 2009

A Film on Iraq that may surprise you, HBO's "Taking Chance"

On Saturday Feb. 21 through March 1, HBO will be airing "Taking Chance" starring Kevin Bacon.

From what I understand, the Film maker stayed fairly true to the true story told by Lt. Col Michael Strobl in a "Blackfive" MilBlog story from 2004 that I read when it came out. Blackfive is a great MilBlog and for anybody that follows MilBlogs, you read incredible stories of Heroism and drama that you are convinced will never see the light of day, because of the fact that Hollywood controls the ability to tell stories in our culture. They complain that there is a lack of stories so they retell stories from comic characters, any novel that made the New York Times 10 ten, Remakes of Foreign films or old movies that have been forgotten, and sequels of movies that should have been forgotten, but...with millions of real life dramas being played out on behalf of each and every one of us in a land far away, we hear nothing but negative Films coming out of Iraq.

So I was surprised to see this Movie Promo show up in the banner ads at Powerline.

It is the story of an Officer who volunteered to escort the body of a fallen soldier home to his small Wyoming town for his final resting place.

I read a review of this movie that tried to make a political point out of what I have been told is a very non-political movie, saying this Movie underscores why Bush should have allowed footage of flag draped coffins at Dover. I think Lt. Col. Strobl's story does exactly the opposite. I think it reminds us of why each fallen soldier and his family deserve a dignified Homecoming and not have their body be used as a prop for a quick and cute photo caption that can be used for propaganda by people including our enemies that want to undercut the very mission that the fallen soldier gave his life to defend.

If the final epilogue of a soldiers life is that his body was used against his will to work against the cause he died for, that would be a desecration of a life well lived and an injury to all of the Americans you see in this Film that stopped what they were doing to salute this man's sacrifice.

A few years ago, I read "Stoic Warriors", a book about the deeper philosophical underpinnings of the military mind and the traditions that they live by. The book dedicates nearly an entire chapter to respect for the dead, protection against desecration of the body, protocol and procedures, and the reasons for the importance of risking ones life to bring back a dead body of a fallen soldier even in the most dangerous combat zone. The explanation covers thousands upon thousands of years of tradition passed from culture to culture, Soldier to Soldier, Father to Son, Brother to Brother and especially a Soldier to a Mother.

In ancient times, having the body return was proof to a grieving family whose mind struggled to convince their heart that their doubts of a loved one that might have actually survived or there might be a mistake, must be let go. It also gave the families and comrades a central point of focus for all the energy and emotion that was looking for an outlet and a direction to release.

Recent polls show that more Americans today think that the Iraq war will be remembered by history as a success and a cause worth fighting for. In this story, seeing the reverence being paid by not only the soldiers, but each and every average American along the way is a tribute to the very personal relationship that most of us feel with the Men and women who give their last full measure of devotion on the alter of liberty, so that we can all live free.

If you have a few minutes, read Lt. Col. Strobl's 2004, story at Blackfive. If it moves you to act "Snowball Express" and "Operation Homefront" are two great charities for supporting families of the fallen. It's a long story, but well worth reading.

For all of the attempts to use the fallen for the selfish purposes of someone else's cause, honor the life of a hero for the cause he exchanged his finest years for so that we might live free.

The HBO film, "Taking Chance" will air Saturday and Sunday and throughout that week.

From BlackFive in 2004:
...When the remains of a service member are loaded onto a hearse and ready to leave the Dover mortuary, there is an announcement made over the building’s intercom system. With the announcement, all service members working at the mortuary, regardless of service branch, stop work and form up along the driveway to render a slow ceremonial salute as the hearse departs. Escorts also participated in each formation until it was their time to leave.

On this day there were some civilian workers doing construction on the mortuary grounds. As each hearse passed, they would stop working and place their hard hats over their hearts. This was my first sign that my mission with PFC Phelps was larger than the Marine Corps and that his family and friends were not grieving alone.

Eventually I was the last escort remaining in the lounge. The Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant in charge of the Marine liaison there came to see me. He had Chance Phelps’s personal effects. He removed each item; a large watch, a wooden cross with a lanyard, two loose dog tags, two dog tags on a chain, and a Saint Christopher medal on a silver chain. Although we had been briefed that we might be carrying some personal effects of the deceased, this set me aback. Holding his personal effects, I was starting to get to know Chance Phelps...

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