By Marny MalinFebruary 19, 2009
A made-for-television movie based on the real-life observations of a casualty escort was screened for more than 150 Soldiers, civilian and DoD support staff from Human Resource Command, Casualty and Mortuary Affairs, at Fort Belvoir's Wood Theater Feb. 19.
The HBO film 'Taking Chance' chronicles the reflections and feelings of retired Marine Lt. Col. Mike Strobl as he escorts a fellow Marine to his hometown in Dubois, Wyo., from Dover Air Force Base, Del. Strobl documents the warmth, kindness and respect that he and the Marine's remains are shown on the journey to his final resting place. Strobl is portrayed by actor Kevin Bacon.
Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr. spoke to the audience briefly before the film began, expressing his appreciation for their professionalism and support. "This is a remarkable film that speaks to your efforts. You support the families here in Arlington and in 50 states with clarity, solace, reassurance and respect. At a time of great stress, you comfort the families and honor the fallen. What you do every day deserves our highest praise. You are the unsung heroes," stated Huntoon.
Huntoon went on to state that for as many times they do this mission, they do it knowing it is also the first time for the families. "You do it with the highest professional standards. Thinking not only of their passing, but remembering the glory of their spirit. That is what you do and what you convey to the families and I am most honored to be in your company," Huntoon said.
The film opens with a black screen and the piercing audio of a firefight, and progresses to scenes of the dedication, care, and respect that that each casualty receives. From the airfields to the mortuary, each step is documented with dignity. The film is a testament to the work the men and women of Casualty and Mortuary Affairs and the escorts.
In the film, Strobl's observations as a former active-duty officer surface and he expresses regrets that he opted for desk duty at the Pentagon instead of taking a place on the frontline. Feelings as a father, son and friend emerge as he bears witness, carries the personal effects and guards the casket of the fallen Marine.
Strobl encounters small gestures that move him, which come in the form of acknowledgement by airline and freight staff, to those who stop in silence as the casket is unloaded. The film emphasizes that we must all bear witness so these casualties don't simply disappear and must remember the sacrifices of so many.
"The film is a very touching and accurate portrayal, representing the process of what we do for the fallen, stated Sgt. 1st Class Norman Campbell, who has been assigned to Casualty and Mortuary Affairs for four years.
"We also work with families on notification of wounded Soldiers and support families with status reports until they get to the States. It's rewarding, but also, sometimes you see names you recognize on the list. That's the hard part," stated Campbell.