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Subject: Taking Chance

Bill Bellinger
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Date Posted: 06:28:47 03/18/09 Wed

There is a good movie that has been running on HBO entitled “Taking Chance”. It is about Marine, PFC Chance Phelps, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, and his journey home. The story is centered on his stateside escort LTC Mike Strobl (Kevin Bacon). The movie gives a realistic view of what happens to our fallen comrades when they come home. Toward the end of the movie LTC Strobl is feeling bad because all his peers went back to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom and he stayed home at a desk job. He told an old Marine Korean War Veteran that those guys and Chance, they are real Marines. The old Vet said to Strobl “And you think you’re not. You’d better stop right there Colonel. What you did is important. You brought Chance home. You are his witness now. Without a witness they just disappear.”

I’ve been thinking about what the old Marine said and I believe that is what “The Wall” is all about, bearing witness and honoring our fallen brothers and sisters. When you visit “The Wall”, I guarantee you will be moved. I was a basket case on my first visit.

The movie reminded me of my escort duty in Vietnam. SP4 Harry Branham was killed in an ambush near Dong Ha, 42 years ago today, on March 18, 1967. Harry was in my platoon. I met his remains at the Graves Registration Point at the Da Nang Air Base. I escorted him to the Saigon Mortuary along with another soldier who was killed with Harry and eleven Marines. It was a two day journey. It was an Honor to escort those Soldiers and Marines. Maybe I didn’t realize it then, but I certainly do now. I sometimes wondered what happened to Harry and the others. The movie gives reassurance that they were treated with dignity and honor all the way home. Harry was from Monroe, Virginia. He is buried in his family plot in Saint Pauls Cemetery near Monroe. I plan to visit Harry and pay my respects on my next trip to Southwest Virginia.

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