I watched HBO’s “Taking Chance” last night and had to post this morning, partly as a bookend for my post on Friday. “That Lucky Ones” is about coming home from war wounded inside and out. “Taking Chance” is the true story of a Lt. Col. who volunteered to escort the remains of a soldier killed in Iraq–to take him home. It, too, is a simple story–an experience, really. It’s moving from beginning to end. Very understated. Kevin Bacon is wonderful. I had no idea how carefully the military treats the remains of our fallen soldiers. It’s beautiful. Don’t shy away for fear that it’s too morbid. It’s not presented that way.
Back in 1973 when I was on my way home for Daddy’s funeral (he’s buried at Arlington) I watched from the plane window as a military escort supervised the loading of a casket onto the conveyor belt and into the belly of our plane. I was still in denial, but I remember that moment vividly.
“Taking Chance” shows ordinary Americans honoring Chance Phelps all along the journey home, and in that way it presents a real contrast with “The Lucky Ones.” There’s truth in both, of course. I read recently that Iraq War veterans are joining the ranks of the homeless in ever-increasing numbers. So many Vietnam vets on the streets, and I often wonder what “Support Our Troops” means. Certainly nothing that can be reduced to a 3-word bumper sticker. I do feel that movies like these help us realize as a community that these are our sons and daughters.
Chance Phelps was buried in Wyoming. The horse-drawn wagon reminded me of so many funerals for members of Clyde’s family. I’ve blogged about this before–in Indian country, the VFW plays a big part in every veteran’s funeral, and reservations are replete with veterans. There’s nothing more moving to me than Taps and a 21-gun salute. At Arlington there was a fly-over for Daddy. For my retired cavalry officer grandfather, there was a horse-drawn caisson and the riderless horse, Blackjack. The spit and polish, the pomp and circumstance–until we find a way to get along in this world without sending our young people into the line of fire, these things somehow remind us of the gravity of it all even as they comfort us.
Even if you don’t get HBO, watch the trailer.