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Retired Lt. Col. Michael R. Strobl stands next to actor Kevin Bacon during a premier showing of HBO's made-for-TV movie 'Taking Chance.' Bacon plays the role of Strobl in the movie as a uniformed military escort bringing home the body of Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps who was killed in action April 9, 2004. The movie is based off of the journal Strobl kept during the escorting of Phelps from Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., to Phelps hometown in Dubois, Wyo.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Bryan G. Carfrey

Movie premiere hits close to home for service members

11 Feb 2009 | Lance Cpl. Bryan G. Carfrey

Senior military officials and government dignitaries gathered to watch the premiere of “Taking Chance,” the HBO made-for-TV movie, Feb. 9 at the Motion Picture Association of America.

“Taking Chance” depicts the experiences of Lt. Col. Michael R. Strobl while escorting a fallen Marine from Dover Air force Base in Dover, Del., to Dubois, Wyo., in April 2004.

Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps was killed in action during combat operations April 9, 2004, in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, while assigned to Battery L, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment.

“When we started filming the movie I thought the American people should be the main character,” said Strobl, who retired in 2007 and co-wrote the movie. “That’s why I wrote it - the reaction of the American people who witnessed the journey along the way.”

Actor Kevin Bacon portrays Strobl in the movie and also made an appearance at the premiere.

 “I was amazed and surprised I didn’t know anything about it and had no idea about the (escorting) process,” Bacon said.  “I liked that it was a simple telling of Mike’s journey with Chance. It doesn’t really hit you over the head.  It kind of sneaks up on you, and the accumulative effect of watching the process and the way people reacted along the trip is what I responded to as an actor.”  

To prepare for the role, which was his third time portraying a Marine, Bacon said he met with Strobl on several occasions.

 “I try my best when playing Marines to pay attention to detail and try to humanize them as much as possible,” Bacon said. “People who aren’t in the military sometimes find it tough to look past the uniform.”

After the movie, spectators, which included Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright, were given the opportunity  to shake hands with and express their thanks to director Ross Katz, who co-wrote the screenplay with Strobl.

“I wanted to portray honesty in this movie,” Katz said. “When you witness the remains of a young man who gave his life for civilians like me, we aren’t red states or blue states, we’re purple states.  We’re all Americans. “

 “Taking Chance” is scheduled to premiere on HBO Feb. 21.

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