Memorial Day movies: ‘Taking Chance’ is a way to understand those who serve

Since today is Memorial Day, here is a movie you should consider seeing if you can find it. My brother, serving honorably in Iraq, recommended it and I’ll take his word on it. It’s called “Taking Chance” and stars Kevin Bacon. This is what reviewer Robert Davis said about the movie, which was nominated for the Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival:

Taking Chance is a very simple film about Lt. Col. Michael Strobl (Kevin Bacon) who is escorting the body of a fallen PFC named Chance Phelps to his family. In under ninety minutes, the film bears witness to the respectful procedures that the USMC follows in such situations and to the reactions of ordinary Americans who Strobl meets on this particular journey. He doesn’t know the Private, and we learn only a few details about Strobl himself, but I found the film to be one of the most moving experiences I’ve had in a theater, almost indescribably so. Bacon’s solidity and restraint bind the minimal plot together, as do the tasteful decisions made by filmmaker Ross Katz, a producer-turned-director (he produced Lost in Translation and In the Bedroom) who tells the story with remarkable efficiency, never lingering past a scene’s essential moment, never overplaying the emotion. It’s the best feature film about America’s involvement in Iraq that I’ve seen. I’m not a military guy, and I’ve never had much interest in the Marines, but after the screening I needed some time to walk around.

The war in Iraq: It all starts with security

My younger brother, serving our country in Iraq, writes about what the mission looks like these days. Surprisingly, it looks less like a war and more like everyday life:

In 2006 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Muhammad Yunus for his work in giving micro-grants to people needing a little help to improve their small businesses. He showed the world how grants as little as $1,000 could change the lives of those (high-potential, low income) people. This week, I began handing out micro-grant applications to local sheiks (who will help me find and nominate the best candidates from the area).

I wish I could say that I thought of the idea. I am merely helping to facilitate the program in our area. The idea is simple yet powerful: meaningful growth and improvement can come from humble beginnings. This isn’t just an Iraqi phenomenon either; this micro-grant program is growing in the United States as well (see http://www.microgrants.net).

The types of applications I’ll be looking for will buy tools for that small engine repair shop; it will buy refrigeration for the local butcher to keep his products safe and hygienic. It will add a sewing machine to the local clothing shop, it will add workers to these shops, it will expand the economic base and capacity of this area.

As my brother writes, none of this kind of work would be possible without first securing the area. So, in other words, there has been significant progress made in Iraq. When you hear about reporters throwing their shoes at the president of the United States, remember that there’s more news out there than what gets on the network.