The Defense Department had banned virtually all media coverage of deceased vets returning home since the 1991 Gulf War until April 2009. But the military offered advice and assistance, providing Taking Chance's film crew with a rarely viewed, but painstakingly accurate account of the care and protocol bestowed upon the nation's fallen warriors.
When Lieutenant Colonel Strobl and Private First Class Phelps leave the hangar in Minneapolis there is a large Kalitta Air Charter airplane in the background. In 2007, Congress passed a law that military members were no longer to be returned to their families as cargo in the cargo hold of airliners as with Chance Phelps. The remains are now flown by Kalitta on their fleet of small jets.
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Strobl, a Desert Storm veteran, says he decided against another combat tour largely because of his young family. But he was conflicted, and joined the many military personnel who volunteered for escort duty as Iraqi war deaths escalated. Strobl's week-long trip accompanying Phelps' body from a Delaware military mortuary to burial in Wyoming, provides Taking Chance's poignant emotional context. Strobl shared his twenty-page journal of the trip with friends and co-workers, and it eventually spread virally to military blogs and the media. It was quickly green-lit for filming after surfacing at HBO, which has become a major outlet for war-related programming, both documentary and dramatized, with miniseries and films such as Generation Kill (2008), Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq (2006), Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery (2008), and Last Letters Home: Voices of American Troops From the Battlefields of Iraq (2004).
This film, like Bernard and Doris (2006) and Kenneth Branagh's version of As You Like It (2006), bypassed movie theaters in the U.S., and went straight to HBO, even though it was not actually made for television.