Memorial Day is when we commemorate those who died in the service of our country. I offer some excerpts from Lt. Col. Michael Strobl’s account of escorting the remains of a Marine killed in combat in 2004 for you to meditate on.
Chance Phelps was wearing his St. Christopher medal when he was killed on Good Friday. Eight days later, on April 17, I handed the medallion to his mother. I didn’t know Chance before he died. Today I miss him.
Over a year ago, I volunteered to escort the remains of Marines killed in Iraq should the need arise. The military provides a uniformed escort for all casualties to ensure they are delivered safely to the next of kin and are treated with dignity and respect along the way.
From Dover to Philadelphia, Philadelphia to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Billings, Billings to Riverton, and Riverton to Dubois we had been together. Now, as I watched them carry him the final 15 yards, I was choking up. I felt that as long as he was still moving, he was somehow still alive. Then they put him down above his grave. He had stopped moving.
Strobl’s account details the simple acts of support and respect that he witnessed on his journey. It’s available at
His account was also the basis for an HBO feature “Taking Chance” that I found very moving when I watched it for the first time about two weeks ago.
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