Kevin Bacon portrays Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, of the U.S. Marine Corps, in the upcoming movie, "Taking Chance." The movie is based on Strobl's journal chronicling the officer escorting the body of Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps, a 19-year-old former Craig resident who was killed in 2004 in Iraq, home to Dubois, Wyo. The film, a Sundance Film Festival official selection, premiers Feb. 21 on HBO.

James Bridges/HBO/courtesy

Kevin Bacon portrays Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, of the U.S. Marine Corps, in the upcoming movie, "Taking Chance." The movie is based on Strobl's journal chronicling the officer escorting the body of Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps, a 19-year-old former Craig resident who was killed in 2004 in Iraq, home to Dubois, Wyo. The film, a Sundance Film Festival official selection, premiers Feb. 21 on HBO.

Taking in 'Taking Chance'

Film about former Craig resident killed in Iraq premiers this month



James Bridges/HBO/courtesy

Chance Phelps' parents - John Phelps, far left, and Gretchen Mack, fourth from left - attended a special screening of the movie, "Taking Chance" on Tuesday in Quantico, Va. A public screening of the movie is scheduled for Wednesday at Dubois High School in Wyoming.


Courtesy photo

Chance Phelps

If you go

What: Public screening of "Taking Chance"

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Dubois (Wyo.) High School gymnasium

• The film is open to anyone who wants to attend. It will premier on HBO nationwide Feb. 21.

— Gretchen Mack, a former Craig resident, had reason to be apprehensive and nervous Dec. 13, 2008, while sitting with friends and family at a home in Dubois, Wyo.

She was about to relive one of the worst moments of her life - the moment she lost her son.

On the television screen in the home's basement, a DVD was placed in a player and a black screen came up. Mack then heard sounds of radio transmissions, explosions and frenetic gunfire booming in the background, followed by words:

"Phelps is down."

Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps, a 19-year-old Marine who spent 12 years of his childhood living in Craig, died April 9, 2004, by hostile gunfire in the Al Anbar Province in Iraq.

The scenes his mother watched that night two months ago were from a movie, HBO Films' "Taking Chance," which premieres nationwide this month.

The film is based on the journal of Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a senior Marine Corps officer who escorted Phelps' body home. Kevin Bacon stars as Strobl.

"I won't lie to you," Mack said Wednesday about her first time seeing the finished movie. "It was absolutely awful. It was absolutely horrible to have to sit and watch that."

Don't misunderstand her words.

Mack said they are not a reflection of the film's quality, content or acting, but rather an emotional response to a traumatic event that's still painful.

Watching the movie, she said, is like "dejà vu."

"It's just really hard," Mack said. "I don't even know how to describe it."

On Friday, Mack returned to Wyoming from an east coast trip, during which the film was screened at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., the Marine Corp Base in Quantico, Va., and twice in New York City.

On Wednesday, about 30 Craig residents will attend a public screening of the movie inside the gymnasium at Dubois High School in Dubois, Wyo., the same gym in which Phelps' funeral took place in 2004. The list of Craig attendees includes Phelps' friends and family, said Tonee Gingrich, his grandmother and a Craig resident.

"It's going to be like : reliving the whole thing we went through, but hopefully it sends the right message to people," said Gingrich, who will be joined at the movie by her son, Christopher, and sister, Dollie Frentress, among others. "It's not just about Chance. : It's about the love and respect (soldiers killed in action) receive as they travel (home) with an escort.

"It's not a political message. It's just a message to our military how much we respect and honor them."

The screening in Dubois is open to anyone who wants to attend.

Phelps had been in Iraq for about a month before he died. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguished Device for "heroic actions" during the ambush that led to his death.

Strobl, a Desert Storm veteran with 17 years of military service, volunteered to escort Phelps from Dover Port Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Maryland, to his family in Wyoming.

"The Department of Defense provides a uniformed escort to ensure that the remains of all servicemen who have died are transported with proper respect and safeguarded all the way to wherever the loved ones desire the final resting place to be," Strobl said in a news release from HBO.

The journey home with Chance, Strobl said, "transcended any of his expectations."

"Beginning in Virginia, and then especially in Dover and from there on, I saw how people were reacting to Chance's sacrifice," Strobl said in the release. "I felt like I really wanted to remember it, and the best way to do that was to capture it in a journal."

HBO contacted Phelps' family in late 2005 or early 2006 about making a movie based on Strobl's journal, which also circulated on the Internet.

The family gave filmmakers their blessing, Mack said, with a couple of conditions.

Sticking to Strobl's narrative was the first, she added.

"And then it was 'If you can't stick to the narrative - positive Marine Corps, positive Chance, no political stuff - don't do it,'" Mack said.

Family members were involved in the film's process from start to finish, she said.

And that finished product has the approval of Phelps' family.

"It made perfect sense to me how they did it," said Mack, adding that the film has received mostly favorable reviews so far from those who have seen it. "There was a few surprises : but I think they got their point across.

Mack said her son would be surprised by the attention he's receiving today.

"Truthfully, he would just think we're crazy," she said. "Then he would be dumbfounded and honored, as well, knowing a senior Marine Corps officer escorted him home, knowing it's highly unusual."

Mack said she has grown close to men her son once served with, so much so that "they're a part of our family now, as is Lt. Col. Strobl."

Based on a line in Strobl's journal, Chance Phelps had a profound effect on him, as well.

"I didn't know Chance Phelps before he died," Strobl wrote, according to the news release. "But today, I miss him."


STANHATHHORN 8 years, 1 month ago

Click on "print' at the upper left of the article, that will change the format and usually puts the picture above the text.


lonelyone 8 years, 1 month ago

:Mine too Granny. I guess that is why I'd like to go to Wyoming for the show, but will have to find it here to watch. And your right, what an awesome honor to have this movie made about Chance. The Lt. Col. must have been very impressed with somehting as he escorted Chance's body home to his family.


taxslave 8 years, 1 month ago

The top photo sure looks like a young Kevin Bacon.


lonelyone 8 years, 1 month ago

Tax, did you read this at all? It is Kevin Bacon in the picture who is portraying Lt.Col. Strobl. Good heavens I am crying my eyes out just reading the article. I have to find someone who has HBO or someone who wants to go to Wyoming to see the moving on Wed.


taxslave 8 years, 1 month ago

I can't read the story..the pictures are on top of it all the way down and I can't move them.


Ray Cartwright 8 years, 1 month ago

tax, that happens occasionally on my machine too. I then will hit the refresh button and it will put the pictures and ads where they belong. I think there is something that you can do with the mouse but on a laptop with no mouse you are what they say SOL


lonelyone 8 years, 1 month ago

Tax, what kind of computer do you have? If like dented says, you have a laptop, the refresh works sometimes for me and sometimes not. If you have a desktop, then if you have a mouse with the scroll wheel, place the cursur to the side of the article. just for the heck of it, I also click the left button and then holding the "CTRL" button down, move the scroll wheel back and forth. By doing this you will notice the page size changes too, but you will notice also in the lower right hand corner a number with a % sign, so while holdning down the ctrl button and moving the wheel you can get that number to return to the size you want, then just let go of the ctrl button and everything should be moved to the correct places. I don't know why some articles will appear like that and some come through just fine and it doesn't seem to matter if they have the side notes or not. Seems like ti goes in streaks too.


taxslave 8 years, 1 month ago

hey you all, that was really kind of you to explain that to me. I have a laptop and the refresh fixed it right up.

I'm not real computer literate or a decent corresponder in the written word of current events....that's why I just try to post links.

However, I am a speed reader who reads current events and legislation around the world about 8 hrs/day, on top of working and being a grandparent.

I also watch those sleezzbags on the House and Senate floor and listen to their jive.....ick is what I feel when either side talks. The blind leading the blind.

Not bad for an oldie but goodie.


grannyrett 8 years, 1 month ago

I have everything but HBO. Guess who is going to get a call pretty soon. I'm not going to miss this movie. My husband knew Gretchen when she worked at the power plant. What an honor!


lonelyone 8 years, 1 month ago

Kevin Bacon was on Leno last night and they talked a bit about this movie and even Leno said is was an awesome movie........not quite in those words, but he said it was well done and a good one to watch.


grannyrett 8 years, 1 month ago

Just finished watching "Taking Chance". What a beautiful movie. He touched so many lives. God bless you all. Our hearts and love go out to Gretchen.


lonelyone 8 years, 1 month ago

I got to watch it too and oh my! It was such a good show and it was well done and it did make me cry. On a bit of a lighter side, the woman that played Gretchen wasn't pretty enough!! ;o)

Bless you all and Bless the men and women who escort these fallen soldiers home


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