Taking Chance -- A Tribute to Our War Heroes

Phil Murphy-Sweet
Some movies make an immediate impact on you. Some movies impact you for a lifetime.

Today, Colin and I just finished watching "Taking Chance" on HBO. It's a sad story about a Marine Lt Col who escorts the remains of PVC Chance Phelps home.

I am not sure whether Colin has ever seen a grown man cry, much less watch his father sob relentlessly.

The last time I remember crying with Colin was at his birth at the Balboa Naval Medical Center in San Diego.

And 11 years later, on this listless, grey day, the tear gates unlocked and my heart cried open.

"Taking Chance" is such a simple, thoughtful movie, it leaves you speechless.

It is not a flag-waving war movie that highlights the romanticism of war. Nor is it a sober critique that epitomizes the pain of a fallen soldier.

Instead it is about respect extended toward the casket by drivers, pilots and people of all stripes.

You never even see a picture of Chance Phelps. You never hear about what sports he played, his high school sweetheart, his buddies in Iraq.

In many ways, the kid with a bubbling personality and a moving story is all wrapped up and anonymous.

He is just like any American son or daughter who is a tragic casualty of the never-ending war on terror.

There is no politics, no agenda except to put a face on those who died and those who the took the call to bring them home.

Kevin Bacon portrays Lt Col Michael Strobl who volunteered to bring Chance home. Kevin plays the role so well that when he clearly wants to cry, but being on call cannot find a way to shed a tear, the audience cries out for him.

Why This Movie Touched Me:

In 2007, I was saddened to hear the loss of my school mate, Phil Murphy-Sweet. Cmdr Murphy-Sweet died from injuries from an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion in Baghdad.

I was completely stunned. Phil left behind a wife and three children, and I feel compassionate and deeply sorry to his family, even if I had never met them.

I've known Phil long before he started a family.

In 1986, for 18 brutal months we suffered and persevered through a highly intense academic and physical training regimen called Broadened Opportunities for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST).

The rigorous military training proved our mettle and brought us closer -- a band of brothers, a band of Sailors.

During the school year, I didn't see Phil that much. We were in separate companies residing in different barracks and when not working out, I was always hitting the books. I had no choice; I was scared to death that I would fail and get sent "back to the Fleet."

I wished I saw Phil more, and I feel especially close to him now.

I get especially emotional every time I see or hear about one of our own who didn't make it back home alive.

When I worked at Bethesda (2003--2005), I visited a lot of Wounded Warriors. Two Marines I had the honor to meet came back alive but tragically died under care from wounds sustained in Iraq.

I remember them distinctly. Their faces of grace, their looks of determination, the desperate looks from their families. I'll always remember them dearly, and I'll never stop thanking them.

Today Phil is buried in our Nation's most sacred shrine, and like all the War Heroes who have come home to rest, I can always pay tribute to them in person and through prayers.

1 comment:

  1. Message from Cheryl Murphy-Sweet

    Mr. Peppler, I wanted to thank you for your touching comments left at the legacy website. I hope that you have found peace with Phil's death. Please know that Phil was very excited on the project that he was working on when he died. He felt he was making a difference. We thought long and hard about his decision to volunteer to Iraq. It was a decision we made together and unfortunately we bargained wrong. I was truly blessed with a loving husband and father of our children. We are all doing well. Ironically, I see you are from DC. I am running the Marine Corp Marathon again this year. My older two children are running the 10K in his honor via the TAPS charity that helps the families left behind. Again, thank you for your warm comments. My kids do enjoy seeing these types of posts about their father. Respectfully, Cheryl Murphy-Sweet