Chance’s story belongs to all of us

Chance Phelps was a resident of the Grand Valley very briefly, spending only his senior year at Palisade High School. He spent more time in Craig, and more still in his hometown of Dubois, Wyo.

But his death in Iraq in 2004 — a hero’s death, since he fell manning a machine gun to protect his comrades when his convoy was ambushed — reverberated across western Colorado. He was one of the first residents of this area to die in the controversial war.

Now a part of his story has become an HBO movie, “Taking Chance,” to be aired this Saturday evening, thanks to the observations of another Grand Junction man, Lt.Col. Mike Strobl.

Strobl, a fellow Marine who grew up in this community, escorted Phelps’ body from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to Dubois for his funeral. He wrote about the trip in a journal that was published online. Strobl is played by Kevin Bacon in the HBO movie.

Based on early reviews of the film, it is neither an anti-war screed nor pro-war propaganda.

Instead, it is a straightforward account of Strobl’s journey with Phelps’ remains, about how he and those he met were affected by it.

If it follows Strobl’s narrative, it will be a touching account. People universally expressed both sorrow and respect to Strobl as he accompanied Phelps’ casket, Strobl wrote. He received a warm welcome and many thanks once he reached Dubois. Readers can check out Strobl’s story at

But this story is not just about one Marine who was killed and another who accompanied his remains home. It reminds us of all our fallen military personnel, the loss felt by their friends and family and how we honor them. In the case of Chance Phelps’ family and friends, that included raising money to get protective vests for others in Iraq and to assist wounded Marines.

It is, in short, an American story.


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