Casualty assistance officers say HBO film realistic
February 20, 2009
By Carol Davis
FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Army News Service, Feb. 20, 2009) -- "Taking Chance," an emotional Home Box Office movie that will air Saturday evening, starring Kevin Bacon, premiered Thursday at Fort Belvoir for an audience who could personally and professionally relate to the characters portrayed.
The movie chronicles one of the silent, virtually unseen journeys that takes place every day across the country when military escorts bring the fallen from the war zone to home.
Based on the real-life experiences of retired Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, the movie pays tribute to the men and women who make the ultimate sacrifice, as well as to the uniformed servicemembers who literally and figuratively carry the fallen home.
Strobl, played by Bacon, came across the name of 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps, a young Marine who had been killed by hostile fire in Al Anbar Province, Iraq in 2004. Strobl, a Desert Storm veteran, requested to be assigned for military escort duty to accompany Phelps' remains to his family in Dubois, Wyo.
"I actually worked overseas. I did the dignified transfers in Germany and at Dover and it captured exactly what we did over there and it was a very moving film," said Sgt.Crystal Seymore, Army Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operation Center. "It's really an honor to actually do this and now everyone can see what we do on a daily basis."
Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr., director of the Army Staff, opened the premier by saying what an honor it was to be in the great company of the men and women who do this mission with the highest professional standards.
"At a time of great stress, you comfort the families and honor the fallen. What you do every day deserves our highest praise," Huntoon said. "You are the unsung heroes."
Although this film is about a Marines' journey home, officials said it is a testimony to the daily work of the CMAOC and everyone who has helped a fallen Soldier find his or her way home.
"This is a unique opportunity for the American public to see the dignity, honor and respect that we treat our fallen with... to see that we do that whether we are in the public eye or not," said Col. Carl Johnson, director of CMAOC. "This was a great portrayal. It was really pretty accurate portrayal of what goes on behind the scenes."
Watching this film in the dark with this audience of casualty assistance personnel, only the occasional sniff could be heard. At the end there was silence from possible wet eyes and heavy spirits as if they too were honoring Phelps one last time.