Taking Chance

PFC Chance Phelps

Lieutenant Michael Strobl, who was responsible for escorting Chance Phelps Home

HBO aired a film last year about a fallen Marine named Chance Phelps. If you didn’t see it, you must check it out. It is now on DVD. The film is based on a true story. The story is so touching and important, that my students are watching it today, before we start our next novel, The Things They Carried.

Chance was a great kid who was well liked by all. He joined up after 9/11 and was sent to Iraq after spending time in Camp Pendleton, CA. The following is a true account of what happened to PFC Phelps in Al Anbar, Iraq.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004 5:38 AM
Trip Report

Kelly BGen John F


Strobl LtCol Michael R


I just read your trip report forwarded to me by CO, 11 th Marines, and having done the kind of duty you report about I know the emotions and pride. I was with the Marine you escorted, nearly right next to him, when he was killed instantly along side a road named ASR San Juan. The closest village is Jurf as Sakhr, and it sits right on the Euphrates River with Fallujah 25kms to the N, and Baghdad perhaps 45 to the NNE.

This is an ugly little section of Iraq and full of extremists that hate us for some reason. Don’t know why, but that’s the way it is. We were in five vehicles and were caught in a complex ambush. They initiated it with an IED that caught the lead vehicle, disabled it, and wounded two of the three Marines inside. After the IED there was immediate massed MG, AK, RPG, and mortar fire that certainly defined for me the term “withering.”

The second vehicle was also caught in the kill zone, but they it did a 180 and out – two WIA aboard from the initial volley. The third vehicle was outside the KZ, but seeing #1 disabled and the Marines in extremis drove in, dismounted, set up a base fire, and started to work the comms. The other vehicles dismounted outside the KZ and began to seek the flank of the ambush. Your Marine’s vehicle was called forward to try and close the back door and prevent the guerrillas escape so we could kill them, and after accomplishing the maneuver and putting his gun in action, he was hit. Over time we shot our way out of it. We collected up wounded, dead, and all equipment from the destroyed HMMWV, then walked out of the KZ shooting the entire time until we were clear. All the Marines in the patrol did what we trained them to do, did it instinctively, and as if they were born to it. Every one of them returned fire, moved to the sound of the guns, and took action. There was certainly nothing special about any of them, by the way, other than they were MARINES.

Your charge started this return home with the same kind of reverence and honor you describe in your trip report, only in a very, very different way. When we rushed into the combat base in Mahmudiyah it wasn’t for him, we knew he was already with God, but for the WIAs we had aboard. The entire camp knew he was with us, however, and they all stood tall and were proud to simply be in the same shit hole with him and doing what they joined to do.

The Navy Docs went right to it with the WIAs and saved lives, at the same time we removed him from the vehicle it’s turret having been immediately manned by another Marine who’d himself been hit in the face, but pressed with the mission and the gun never went quiet in the process. The dead Marine, only just out of high school last May, was of course filthy dirty and his uniform vastly different than the one you saw him in. He obviously was not wearing any ribbons, but did have his flak and all the other accoutrements of a field Marine on when we removed him. He was also still soaked from the unbelievable sweating a fight brings on. His buddies spent a few quiet moments and we talked about the loss, and what he meant – what he was like – to them all.

Everyone offered a vignette, most were silly or funny, but that’s the kind of guy he was. We then withdrew as there was a detailed critique to conduct (actions on contact, who did what, what worked, what didn’t work, what could have done better, and all the what ifs that go with learning the trade and getting better), and then the platoon commander (himself quite a guy) got right to it as there were also weapons to clean, and preps to be made for the next patrol. Life goes on doesn’t it. This all took place, by the way, at about 1500 local on Good Friday. Thought you should know the rest of the story. Thanks for taking care of our Marine.

(Actual email taken from www.chancephelps.org)

Chance was only 19 when he died. He was much too young. According to others in his unit, he was responsible for saving their lives.

The film and the story are very touching and a must see for every American. If you are interested in donating money to the Chance Phelps Organization, please go to their website.


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Join the Discussion!

  1. thanks for recommending this on my blog :)

    I’ll give it a shot in a few months. I think it’s way too early to watch a movie like this right now. “Brothers” was hard enough when in came out in theatres. haha

    but thank you :)

  2. I saw this movie last year – it was very touching. Kevin Bacon does an amazing job portaiting him.

    Ps. Love the new lay-out! The roses are so romantic! For valentine’s day?

  3. Very moving account….. Our nephew is in the Marines & did a tour in Iraq & now he is in Afghanistan. We hold our breath.
    Thanks for the post!
    p.s. Did you ever read the book “The Girl in the Green Sweater”?? It is one of the most moving books…..I have a friend who is using it in her AP classes.
    Have a Wonderful Day!

  4. This sounds very interesting. I will most likely cry the entire time watching the film once I have time to give it a watch.

    Thank you for your comment! Yeah, I love Audrey Hepburn. One word of caution though, I wouldn’t watch Charade before Wait Until Dark. Her screaming in Wait Until Dark had a reverse effect on me because I watched Charade before, it caused me to laugh instead of feeling scared for her character. I still really enjoy both of these movies, though.

    I’m a huge Billy Wilder fan, so I’d recommend Sabrina first. You’re probably a fan of his as well. Marilyn’s performance in Some Like it Hot is one of my favorites! Got to love the screenwriting collaboration between Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond!

  5. Bonjour Kori,
    I will put this on my must-see lists, our brave soldiers are so brave!
    Are you feeling better? SOmetimes it is one thing after another, isn’t it?
    I like your new blog design, the roses are marvelous, and Marilyn looks happy in this photo.
    Bon soirée my friend!

  6. I have seen this movie. It is absolutely amazing! I cried through the entire thing. This movie really touched home for me.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

 Saturday #ootd #fringe #suede #vintage #bootbarn #western #oldgringoboots #oldgringo #forever21 #styleblogger #fashionblogger #castyle #springstyle #instafashion #instagood #wiw #outfit  Spending the night at #Disneyland with the parents #carsland #Blondeepisodes #disney #happiestplaceonearth #cheatday #pink #newbalance #skinnies #celebritypinkjeans #dareu2  Hump day!  #ootd #wiw #teacherstyle #iteachhighschool #instafashion #castyle #springstyle #athletic #americaneagle #bootbarn #nike #kohls #denim #outfit #instagood  Some of you have asked me about my #shakeology #shakes lately and why I love them. I have literally no sweet cravings (which is huge for me), more energy, and am getting tons of veggies, vitamins, and calcium among other things every day. I honestly look forward to my shake every morning more than my morning coffee now! This month you can try a #supersampler pack to try all the flavors and see which one you love. It's only $29.95 for 6! Let me know if you want to order!
 Me and dad at the #happiestplaceonearth #castle #Blondeepisodes #disney #Disneyland #60thanniversary   TGIF! Today  the blog come see this super comfy outfit www.blondeepisodes.com #Blondeepisodes #styleblogger #fashionblogger #denimjacket #wedges #joggers #trackpants #gstage #nordstromrack #nordstrom #springstyle #castyle  Some of you have been asking which flavor of #shakeology I love the best and how I make mine. Well #chocolate for sure!!! Here's how I make mine ------------------- ▪️10 oz unsweetened almond milk ▪️1 scoop of shakeology ▪️a frozen banana (but I like mine really banana flavored. You could do 1/2) ▪️about 8 ice cubes to make it frothy (I like it thicker) ▪️sometimes a little pb2 or spinach that's it! Blend and I have to put it in my favorite #tervis #tumbler of course! Super easy, delicious, and satisfies me til lunch. Let me know if you're interested in ordering some! Great sampler pack this month! #beachbody #pb2 #almondmilk #ninja #cleaneating #mealreplacement #healthy  Thank you thank you thank you @celebritypinkjeanshq for my super sweet care package!!!! I love these #supersoft #skinnies and can't wait to wear them! #blackismyfavorite #celebritypinkjeans #dareu2 #Blondeepisodes #instafashion #jeans
 Two peas in a pod. Mama and I had to get the same #Minnie #backpack #polkadots #Blondeepisodes #Disneyland #crittercountry ❤️ #Disney #Minnie #disneygear #blackredandwhite #skinnies #newbalance #dareu2 #comfy #pink #victoriassecret #celebritypinkjeans  Good morning! #ootd #Blondeepisodes #wiw #outfit #celebritypinkjeans #skinnies #dareu2 #flats #denimjacket #nordstromrack #kohls #instafashion #instagood #teacherstyle #iteachhighschool #springstyle #castyle  Good morning! Down 2 lbs and giving credit to my #shakeology and #weightwatchers. My shakes are the best part of my day! #ootd #Blondeepisodes #animalprint #skinnies #celebritypinkjeans #dareu2 #forever21 #wedges #francosarto #teacherstyle #iteachhighschool #springstyle #castyle #instafashion #wiw #instagood  Did you have your #shake today? I made mine in this adorable #tervis #tumbler. Feeling good! #shakeology #chocolate #banana #energy #mealreplacement #beachbody #nutrients #cleaneating #Blondeepisodes
 So comfy in my #pink #sweatshirt and my new #celebritypinkjeans supersoft #skinnies #ootd #victoriassecret #Blondeepisodes #dareu2 #alexandani #michele #newbalance  I may have just ordered these from my friend @cowboycooldallas  can't wait to get these babies #oldgringoboots #western #sniptoe #cowgirlup #tan #inlove ❤️  Did you watch the #acm awards last night? Lots of great fashion and fun including some from these two #jordanspieth. Come see my recap of the show  the blog www.blondeepisodes.com #Blondeepisodes #countrymusic #jakeowen #jordanspieth #awardshow  Don't know what I've done to deserve this amazing man but my #mcm is my baby because he treats me like a princess and is truly my best friend. #blessed #thankfuleveryday #love #truelove #bff #Blondeepisodes