Chance R Phelps

Chance R Phelps

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U.S. Marines

People from Wyoming and Colorado gathered in the small mountain town of Dubois, Wyoming, to pay respects to native son and Marine Private First Class Chance Phelps, who was killed in Iraq. Chance’s funeral service was held in the high school gymnasium, the only building large enough to hold so many mourners. A horse-drawn wagon conveyed Chance’s body up the hill to the cemetery. Main Street was lined with people, and bagpipes played Amazing Grace.

Chance’s parents, Gretchen Mack and John Phelps explained that their son started talking about joining The Marines after the United States was attacked on September 11th. That just changed everything, said Gretchen Mack. He just told me,  “I got to go.” I couldn’t stop him. I didn’t want to stop him, but my heart was just … you know, I think I always knew really that he probably wouldn’t come back.”

Mack said her son drew people to him with his humor. He had an unusual amount of zest. He just possessed this quality that he had to be in the thick of things all the time. He was very, very positive, very funny. His main thing in life was making people laugh.

The young man also loved to hunt and fish and spent summers with his father in Wyoming.  Chance was also the subject of a powerful HBO movie called “Taking Chance”.

Chance’s portrait is also on Poster 8


9 Responses to “Chance R Phelps”
  1. Sharon Ambrose says:

    I’ve just sat and watched “Taking Chance” for about the 16th time as its so very moving and should be watched and learned about by “all”. It certainly moves me beyond words.
    I admire hugely the respect shown to Chance on his journey coming home for the final time. I would be so proud to call myself an American citizen but sadly I am not, I am English. If only our British boys were honoured so respectfully wouldn’t this sad and cruel world be a kinder place..sadly its not the case and may be just as bad in other countries.
    Still.. Chance and his coming home journey will always now have a part in my heart. My thoughts go out to his family, I cannot imagine the pain they went through and no doubt still are to this very day.
    God bless you all and God bless you Chance. What a hero you are. XXXX

  2. Kevin Reese says:

    My interaction with Chance began the day we were bunked next to one another in bootcamp:
    In the middle of the night, after a long day of training and being slayed by our DIs, Chance tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Lets go f*** with Farmer! (A major screw up we had picked up from Charlie Company). Chance mimicked the voice of DI Sergeant Neal to a T and messed with Farmer for a good 20 minutes. Sgt Neal caught wind of it and came to see us in our racks and said, “That was some d*** funny s***; don’t ever f***ing do it again!” We acknowledged the order, carried on and graduated a few weeks later.
    I was in Korea when Chance was killed, I didn’t even find out until about April 20th; by that time, I was back in Okinawa. I came back to the states the following year. Two years later, I was at Sergeant’s Course in Quantico and ran into a Gunny who was with Chance the day he was killed – his recollection of that day chilled me to my core; that was the winter/spring of 2007. In 2009, I deployed to Afghanistan; while in the bazzar just outside our compound, I saw a hodgie copy of “Taking Chance” – I took it to my hooch, watched it, and bawled my eyes out, remembering my buddy from bootcamp. The next spring I was training in Yuma, AZ; I went to the head at the PX – I swear, as I was washing my hands and I saw Chance in the mirror, standing in the corner, grinning at me with that grin of his that says, “I know something you don’t know” and “you’re gonna be alright,” all at the same time.
    I live in South Dakota again, after 14 years away. I’ve always wanted to visit Chance, I’ve just never found the courage to go… I don’t even know what I’d say to his parents, whom I vaguely recall meeting on graduation day.
    Memorial Day weekend is when I remember my friend, Chance, the most; he was the kindest, funniest, and most dedicated Marine I ever had the pleasure of knowing (and I served for eight years); although I never served with him in the fleet, I went through hell with him at MCRD San Diego – that makes him my brother for eternity!
    God bless anyone who ever knew Chance, and may you find comfort in the brief story I’ve just shared. Semper Fidelis, Chance – Til Valhalla, brother!

  3. eherzberg says:

    Kevin – thank you for your thoughtful post. As a gold star father who lost his son, I do not expect my sons Marine Corps friends to know what to say. Just being there and sharing stories of your friend Chance that his parents have not heard before would be a special gift from you to them. BTW – my son is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. There is a middle school teacher from Michigan who organizes a trip every year for about 120 of his kids to Washington DC. Their first stop is at Arlington where they visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and my sons grave. They already know all about my son Eric because the teacher has put together a 3 day curriculum where they go to my son’s web site, research about him and write letters to him and my family. I mention this because the first day of the class, all 280 students watch “Taking Chance”. So they all know about him too. So in a way, my son Eric and your friend Chance are tied together forever now. I thought you might find it encouraging that your friend has had such an impact with his life. Thanks again for sharing this.

    Eric Herzberg

  4. Carrie Reddick says:

    Marrying a Marine at 21, then moving from Oklahoma to Camp Lejeune, NC was an amazing honor and blessing. Anytime we had holidays at our house, the single military men and women were invited. Hearing the stories from their times in basic to then was an honor. Not long after moving back to Oklahoma, a friend lost her son, Sgt. Ryan Mitchell Woods. Ryan was 22 and on June 21, 2007 he was killed in action while in Baghdad. What an amazing gift both these military men gave. Thank you to all that serve our country. Freedom is not free and many pay this price with their lives. God bless you all.

  5. Karin Walsh says:

    We just watched the movie. There are no words, but as a Mother, my heart goes out to all of you. Thank you for your son, forever in our hearts and grateful for the sacrifice he made for all of us.

  6. Keri Wujcik- Paquette says:

    Dear Ms. Mack and Mr. Phelps

    My name is Keri Wujcik Paquette and I am from Rhode Island and in 2009 I watched Taking Chance. I did not think I was able to have another child but I said if I ever have a son I have to name him Chance. Well in August of 2009 I found out I was having a baby. So excited and at three months I had my second level ultra sound due to complications and the woman asked if I wanted to find out if I was having a boy or girl. We did! The x ray tech said It’s a Boy! And we both said Chance ! A minute later she said you’re not naming him after the movie Taking Chance are you?! We were a little surprised and said Yes We Are. She told us that Chance was her nephews best friend and that he still sees his mom. We told him to please tell you that I was naming my baby after your son. I always wondered if you had heard the story. My mom just said I wonder if Chances mom ever found out. Then I came across this. It was such a touching story and it touched my heart. It is so wierd because I was just Chance had gotten the movie for him for his birthday and I have been telling him on his tenth birthday we would watch it. Now here he is ten. I hope you know to us that this was just not a movie , we feel Chance is family and we are honored that we were allowed to name our Chance after your beautiful son. I know he’s always watching over us.

  7. eherzberg says:

    Just about the coolest story I have ever heard :)

  8. Timothy Breslin says:

    Dear Ms. Mack & Mr. Phelps
    I’ve watched the movie a few times now and was very moved each time. I wasn’t in the service I’m a firefighter in a suburb of Chicago. I’ve worked with and are friends of several veterans one of which was a Marine who served in Iraq. If I could I would take all the pain that you’re feeling and put it on my shoulders so all you’d have to remember are the good times you had with your son. It’s because of men like him that we enjoy the freedoms we have. Even though we never met , he will always have a place in my heart. Take care and stay safe.
    Timothy Breslin
    Lincolnwood Fire Department

  9. John E Charette Jr says:

    Dear Mrs. Mack and Mr. Phelps,

    I definitely don’t have the right words for you but I will give it a try. I teach US History and Civics at a small high school in RI. I show “Taking Chance” to all my classes every year around Veterans’Day. I have an assessment that goes with the movie and we do other things to learn about those who serve and the sacrifices they and their families make. You would be pleasantly surprised at how much love and respect many of my students feel for Chance. I have seen the movie so many times and read so much about he and your family that I almost feel as though I actually knew him.
    And, like Col Strobl said, even though I didn’t know Chance when he was alive, I miss him today.

    I hope you know that even after all this time, Chance is still touching the lives of Americans every day and I know he will continue to do so because there are many teachers across the country who will continue to make his story known in a similar way that I do.

    For nonfamily who happen to be reading this, I’d like to share a short story with you. Last year, 2019, my students and I wanted to do something for Gold Star families so we looked online and found the Chance Phelps Foundation. I called it and a woman answered. She was very nice and quite patient with me as I asked a lot of questions. I told her why I was calling and we discussed the foundation and she told me a little bit about Chance. It wasn’t until 3-4 minutes into our conversation that she said something that implied she was Chance’s mom. I was just floored. I said, “wait a minute, I’m speaking with Chance’s mom right now???” She said yes and then there was a long pause. I was speechless (for once). I had to regroup. It was hard to believe. She was so nice and patiently gave so much of her time to a stranger. I did manage to compose myself and let her know how sorry I am for her loss but I am still awestruck by her friendliness and grace.
    I truly am privileged to have had the opportunity to speak with her. I am better for it today as she served as a perfect model for a Gold Star parent. I pray that I never find myself in her shoes but if I do, I hope/pray that I can represent myself and my family half as well as she did with me.

    In closing, a friend of mine has spent a fair amount of time in Wyoming and he says that is where real Americans live. Based on what I’ve learned from Chance’s story and everyone involved, I’d say he’s absolutely right!

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