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Notable Family Members
Notable Phelps Anson Green Phelps, Merchant and philanthropist Austin Phelps, Congregational clergyman, theologian and author Chance Russel Phelps, Private, USMC Charles Edward Phelps, Congressman, Judge, Author Delos Porter Phelps, Lawyer and U.S. Assistant Treasurer Edward John Phelps, Lawyer, educator Dr. Francis Phelps, Representative and Senator George M. Phelps, Master telegraph instrument maker and inventor Dr. Guy Rowland Phelps, Founder, Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance John Phelps, Clerk of the Court at the trial of King Charles I Judge James Phelps, Judge and Congressman Judge John Jay Phelps Judge, merchant, and entrepreneur. Judge John Phelps, Constitutional Convention Signatory from Connecticut John Wolcott Phelps, Brigadier General, United States Volunteers Mary Ann Phelps Rich, Latter-day Saints Pioneer Mary Phelps Jacob, Inventor of the Brassiere Noah Phelps, A Patriot of 1776 and Revolutionary War Spy Oliver Phelps Merchant, Revolutionary War veteran, Representative, Senator land promoter Rev. Philip Phelps First President, Western Theological Seminary Richard Phelps, Bell-founder for Churches Throughout England John Smith Phelps Lawyer, Repesentative, Governor Samuel Shethar Phelps, Jurist, Congressman, and Senator Samuel Phelps, English Actor.html Stephen Sumner Phelps, Illinois Pioneer and Origin of the Hawk Eye State Name Thomas Stowell Phelps, Rear Admiral and Civil War Veteran William Walter Phelps, Congressman, Ambassador, and Judge William Wines Phelps, Judge, Latter-day Saint, Publisher and Writer William Lyon Phelps, American educator, author and critic

Chance Phelps

United States Marine Corps, PFC

Chance Russel Phelps (July 14, 1984 – April 9, 2004) was a Private First Class (posthumously promoted to Lance Corporal) in the United States Marine Corps who served with 2nd Platoon, artillery Battery L, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment (3/11), 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Phelps was killed in Iraq as the convoy he was escorting came under heavy fire. His story is the subject of an HBO movie, Taking Chance.

Biography

Phelps was born in Riverton, Wyoming, moved to Craig, Colorado as a young boy, and then again to Clifton, Colorado where he graduated from Palisade High School in 2003. He was motivated to join the Marines by the events of September 11, 2001. After attending recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego|MCRD San Diego, he attended artillery school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He was finally assigned to 3/11, with which he deployed in February 2004.

Death

Phelps was killed in action at approximately 13:30 on April 9, 2004 (Good Friday), outside Ar Ramadi, Iraq. Phelps's unit was conducting convoy escort (including the assistant commander of the 1st Marine Division, Brigadier General John F. Kelly when they came under heavy small arms fire, including rocket propelled grenades. Despite being wounded, he refused to be evacuated, and instead manned his M240 machine gun (also reported to have been a M2 .50 caliber machine gun) to cover the evacuation of the rest of his convoy. Upon withdrawal, he sustained his fatal wound to the head.

Honors

Phelps was buried in Dubois, Wyoming on April 17, 2004. His remains were escorted home by LtCol Michael Strobl, whose accounts of the escort were recorded in an article he wrote entitled Taking Chance. In attendance were his parents, stepparents, sister, the Chief of Naval Intelligence (for whom his sister was an aide), and every veterans organization within 90 miles. Several days later, a memorial service was held in Camp Ramadi, Iraq, by his unit. Some time after that, Chance was officially awarded a posthumous promotion to Lance Corporal. Approximately the same time, a baseball field constructed in Camp Ramadi was dedicated Phelps Field. with his citation posted on a boulder in front. Phelps is also memorialized by a rock garden at the 3/11 office and at the Dubois VFW post, as well as a plaque that travels with Battery L wherever it deploys and a battery mascot named after the Marine.

Phelps was the subject of a video segment originally broadcast on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer on April 20, 2004: entitled A Fallen Son. PBS ran a segment on Phelps's journey home as part of their Operation Homecoming documentary in the America at Crossroads series in April 16, 2007.

Taking Chance

An HBO movie based on LtCol Strobl's essay Taking Chance screened at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and competed for the Grand Jury prize in the category of drama. The script was also written by LtCol Strobl and filming completed in the fall of 2007, and premiered on February 21, 2009. Actor Kevin Bacon plays the lead role of LtCol Strobl. The story of Chance Phelps, as told by LtCol Strobl is also featured in the book, Faces of Freedom, published in 2007.

Awards and Recogntion

  • Bronze Star w/ Valor device
  • Purple Heart
  • Combat Action Ribbon
  • Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Iraq Campaign Medal
  • Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
  • Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

Taking Chance

By U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobel

Excerpted from the full article.

When we arrived at Billings, I was the first off the plane. The funeral director had driven five hours up from Riverton, Wyoming, to meet us. He shook my hand as if I had personally lost a brother.

I picked up my rental car and followed Chance for the five hours back to Riverton. During the long trip I imagined how my meeting with Chance's parents would go. I didn't know anything about Chance Phelps; not even what he looked like. I wondered about his family and what it would be like to meet them. I was very nervous about that.

When we finally arrived at the funeral home, I felt I needed to inspect Chance's uniform to ensure everything was proper.

Earlier in the day I wasn't sure how I'd handle this moment. Suddenly, the casket was open and I got my first look at Chance Phelps. His uniform was immaculate—a tribute to the professionalism of the Marines at Dover. I noticed that he wore six ribbons over his marksmanship badge; the senior one was his Purple Heart. I had been in the Corps for more than seventeen years, including a combat tour, and was wearing eight ribbons. This private first class, with less than a year in the Corps, had already earned six.

The next morning, I wore my dress blues and followed the hearse for the trip up to Dubois, population about 900, some ninety miles away. This was the most difficult leg of our trip for me. I was bracing for the moment when I would meet his parents and hoping I would find the right words as I presented them with Chance's personal effects. We got to the high school about four hours before the service was to begin.

In short order I met Chance's step-mom and father, followed by his step-dad and, at last, his mom.

I told them about our trip. I told them how, at every step, Chance was treated with respect, dignity, and honor. I didn't know how to express to these people my sympathy for their loss and my gratitude for their sacrifice. Now, however, they were repeatedly thanking me for bringing their son home and for my service. I was humbled beyond words.

The service was a fitting tribute to this hero. When it was over, we stood as the casket was wheeled out with the family following. The casket was placed onto a horse-drawn carriage for the mile-long trip from the gym, down the main street, then up the steep hill to the cemetery. I stood alone and saluted as the carriage departed the high school.

All along the route, people had lined the street and were waving small American flags. The flags that were otherwise posted were all at half-staff. For the last quarter mile up the hill, local boy scouts, spaced about twenty feet apart, all in uniform, held large flags. At the foot of the hill, I could look up and back and see how enormous the procession was. I wondered how many people would be at this funeral if it were in, say, Detroit or Los Angeles—probably not as many as were here in little Dubois, Wyoming.

The carriage stopped about fifteen yards from the grave.  Once the entire crowd was in place, the pallbearers came to attention and began to remove the casket from the caisson. As I had done all week, I came to attention and executed a slow ceremonial salute as Chance was being transferred from one mode of transport to another.

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 fifteen yards, I was choking up. I felt that, as long as he was still moving, he was somehow still alive. Then they positioned him over his grave. He had stopped moving.

Now, he was home to stay and I suddenly felt at once sad, relieved, and useless. It had been my honor to take Chance Phelps to his final post. Now he is on the high ground overlooking his town.

I miss him.

© Copyright Michael Strobl

This excerpt of "Taking Chance" is from Operation Homecoming, edited by Andrew Carroll.