"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Taking Chance

So it’s Memorial Day here in Iraq, and I’m on duty with little else to do (see previous blog post), and the Armed Forces Network (local cable) is showing really depressing war movies. I just caught the last half of “We Were Soldiers” when another pilot warned me that a film called “Taking Chance” was up next; and to prepare myself. It’s a very simple movie from start to finish: it details the journey of a Marine officer (Kevin Bacon, always playing Marine officers it seems) escorting the body of a Marine killed in Ramadi back to family for burial. Bacon’s character, LtCol Strobl, works in the Marine Corps’ manpower division and sees lists of casualties every day; this one catches his eye because the deceased, LCpl Chance Phelps, is from his own hometown. He volunteers to escort Chance home, attends the funeral, and returns to his family. That’s the plot. On the way he repeatedly encounters the gratitude of many ordinary people, from fellow passengers to airport ground workers, who all appreciate and respect his journey even if they don’t understand it. It’s a short movie without politics, without pretense, and with very little drama; but honor, love, and appreciation pervade it throughout. I think every American should watch it this weekend, but I will warn you as I was warned: you will not make it to the end without Kleenex. I say this having watched a roomful of grown men (at various maturity levels) reduced to tears. The movie’s final line is a thought for all of us on Memorial Day, as we remember those many fine Americans that we’ll never know:

“I didn’t know Chance Phelps before he died. But today, I miss him.”

Semper fidelis.

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