I boarded my flight from Los Angeles to San Antonio feeling hollow, mixed with emotions, as I had just said one of those airport goodbyes we hate to do—I’m never good with goodbyes especially those resonating with longevity. This concave place in my life had me more moody with mixed emotions than normal, and when I selected the HBO movie “Taking Chance” on the in-flight, entertainment system, I didn’t realize that I’d soon be watching the most powerful, but saddest movie that I can remember—I tried to hold back, but the volatile mixture of emotions combined with my military background, brought tears to my eyes along with flash backs of my military time in Desert Storm, Haiti, Rwanda and the Latin drug war days.
“Taking Chance,” stars Kevin Bacon as Marine Lt. Colonel Michael Strobl, who volunteers for military escort duty to return the body of a heroic, young, but fallen Marine back to his family—but not just the hearse ride or the funeral of a flag-draped coffin, but what happens behind the scenes, from the minute a military service member is killed in action to the burial. The movie takes you through the respect of escorting a body to the immediate family and all the people it affects along the way, from the airport baggage handlers to the vehicle drivers, not to mention the Marine colonel, a Desert Storm veteran, who must face his own assessment of himself for avoiding duty in Iraq for the fear that his number was up.
While I’m sure this movie will affect everyone differently, military veterans like myself will probably think, that could have been me during my days while on military missions. We also understand that those who have never served their country, will never understand what it truly feels like—just no clue—it’s a different world and an experience that will never purge itself from your system and perhaps Taking Chance will provide a feeling of what it’s like to those that haven’t served. It’s not just about patriotism, it’s about the sacrifices and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice—and those that have survived their military duty know it could have been reversed at some point in their military career.
While this movie is heart-grabbing and rides high on emotions itself, one scene demonstrates how the yellow badge sewn on a TSA uniform is not the same as the military medals meticulously measured and spaced on a military uniform. I loved that scene as I’ve seen too many TSA screeners act like their threaded badge gives them the right to disrespect you as they tried to do with the colonel in this movie. It should be mandatory for TSA screens to view this movie as part of their training, then perhaps many of them will not “cop” an attitude they are so generally becoming known for.
This movie demonstrates the meaning of respect and loyalty, words many people take for granted. Military medals are normally earned, especially for heroic actions and selfless service—Silver and Bronze Stars are not yellow badges—they are for bravery and meritorious actions above and beyond the call of duty. The importance of duty is written into the script of this movie throughout, from the simple action Lt. Colonel Strobl takes by only drinking water while escorting the remains on a civilian aircraft, to protecting the private possessions of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps that will ultimately be returned to his family.
I could write volumes about this movie, but unless you’ve seen it, no matter what I write, you will never be able to feel what it’s really like—just like military service itself. While yesterday started with mixed emotions of a dreaded airport goodbye, I thank my Lord for ensuring I survived my military time. At the same time, I’ll never forget those that have fallen, including those that I personally knew, while serving to protect our freedoms and I can only hope that those who choose not to serve, will not forget—it’s only fair as military members volunteer their selfless service today to bring us the freedoms to do the things we do, including difficult goodbyes. God bless our service members, their families and friends, let’s not forget them and their sacrifices—Rolando (Army active-duty Staff Sergeant, 1987-1995)
Well said, Sergeant. I find that, as fewer people serve in the military, our society forgets the real meaning of the sacrifice for the country. I had never heard of \Taking Chance\, but I will certainly rent it this weekend. Thank you for your service to the nation.
I was hesitant to watch this movie, but my wife highly recommended seeing it and she has excellent taste in movies. I never served in the military but spent the early part of my career working with Air Force Space Command at Warner-Robins and Goodfellow AFB’s and also spent some time with Lockheed-Georgia working on C-5 avionics. So many early memories of my military friends and their families. Man, this was a powerful movie. Excellent acting, cinematography, music score and a fantastic story to tell. It’s moving for all of us, even those that don’t have close ties to the military. But, be prepared for some serious emotions to come through.
I have not had the honor to have served in the Military. I have read countless books, watched dozens of documentaries and movies and spoken with veterans and a D-Day survivor. This of course is not a substitute for being in the Military or even close to being in combat. I must say that no story has ever touched me as much as this movie did. I’ve always know that being a veteran was special now I know why. Thanks to all Veterans and all who gave all.
I just want to thank you and all the others that have served.
I served in the Gulf & Somalia, but I never watch these sort of movies and for reason. I found out that it takes very little time in the zone to need more than a lifetime to put your life back on track. I recall a young soldier on escort duty coming through Kansas City International Airport being brought to me by TSA because he wanted to have permission to be present as the casket was being loaded in the aircraft on the tarmac. My day was in total chaos and the last thing I needed on my desk was another incident of ANY kind. One look up at this young man stringy looking man, and I knew what was going through his head. I immediately thanked the TSA supervisor for bringing him to my attention, grabbed my suit jacket, and told him to follow me. (Just those words, brought back flashbacks of days spent in Fort Benning, Ga.). I knew that if I didn’t do my duty this young man was going to be arrested because he was determined to get out on that tarmac and nothing was going to stop him from trying. As we rode down the elevators and walked down the long hallways out to the exit doors I could hear his heart pounding. I broke the silence by asking him about his hometown, and how long he had served. Assured that he was going to get his wish, he smiled as tears rolled down his face and answered my questions, always ending with “sir”. I knew the military had done an excellent job (on the both of us). I had served my country, and used my GI Bill to put my in the right place to be serving my country yet again for this young soldier. It was the first time I had used the authorization of my yellow/green SIDA badge to go out to a plane on the tarmac. And it was for a very good reason. Before walking through the final doors I paused with that young soldier, called the inbound airport, spoke with the GM of that airport and explained the situation, and got a point of contact for him so that this soldier could do the job he was sent out to do without incident; escort his buddy’s casket home to his family.
this was a movie that touched this vietnam vets heart . pide, and sorrow for those lost . huurah and a slute to all who gave their lives in all conflicts on thos special day of rememberance