Something little, big difference

Run4Chance makes Craig stop, raising money for wounded vets

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The late Chance Phelps first began talking about joining the Marine Corps as a patriotic response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. When he followed up on that impulse and joined the Armed Services, he was aware he'd likely be sent into harms way.

And eventually he was, serving in the Anbar province of Iraq. He was committed to his mission then, his mother said Saturday, just as he would be today.

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"He was real positive about what he was doing," Gretchen Mack said.

Withdrawing from Iraq, ending the mission before it's complete, wouldn't be what the late Phelps, who was killed in April 2004 by enemy fire, would have wanted of his country, Mack said.

Debate around troop withdrawal took center stage on the national political scene once again last week as both the House and Senate passed a war-funding bill that schedules for U.S. troop withdrawal by next April. President George W. Bush has vowed to veto the measure, setting the scene for a showdown between Congressional Democrats and the White House.

Talk of leaving the country is "demoralizing to the troops," said Mack, who is currently involved in a project undertaken to honor her late son -- a former Moffat County High School student.

"I think they are wasting a lot of time, money and lives," she said at Craig City Park, where her southwestern Run4Chance trek made a stop. "I think things are really going to get bad if we leave."

The welfare of U.S. veterans is the other central theme behind Run4Chance.

Since February, Phelps' friends and family have marched across the southwestern United States at a 25-mile per day pace, raising money and awareness for the plight of injured veterans. To date, they have raised $15,000 to $20,000 for the care of wounded veterans.

Run4Chance began in 29 Palms, Calif., and will culminate in Dubois, Wyo., Phelps' hometown and where he is buried. All told, the event spans about 1,547 miles.

The work, the energy, the sacrifice of time away from their own lives has been well worth it, Mack said, and is an example of the difference everyday people can make through simple actions.

"This is just something little we could do to make a difference. ... We're just one little part of a big wheel," said Mack, who is joined on the walk by her daughter, Phelps' sister Kelley Phelps-Orndorff.

Phelps-Orndorff, who served in the Navy for four years, lives in Stuttgart, Germany and took a semester off from psychology classes at the University of Maryland to participate in Run4Chance. She said she wanted to join her mother in the worthy cause, and the pair split the 25 miles per day, one walking while the other drives.

Today, the walk picks up again as mother and daughter head for Maybell. The finish line comes on Memorial Day in Dubois, where Wyoming Governor David Freudenthal, and friends and family will meet them.

"It's going to be a happy reunion when we get to the finish line," Mack said.

Donations can be made by visiting the Web site, www.run4chance.com.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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