Thank you for posting the information, Sweetbriar. I read this letter, off of the link provided. Very moving, IMHO.
February 1, 2009
Dubois, Wyoming is a special place. Not just because it’s the place of rest and a boyhood home to LCpl Chance Phelps. The town has a feeling; a way about it. This feeling is touched on in LtCol Strobl’s Taking Chance.
The following was written by a friend of Kelley Orndoff, Tom Stout, shortly after his first visit to Dubois and the funeral of LCpl Phelps. This letter was sent to the Dubois mayor and published in the Dubois Frontier.
Thank you Tom.
"To The Citizens of Dubois, Wyoming,
A week ago today, I was in your town attending the funeral of Chance Phelps, PFC, USMC. It was certainly a sad weekend, for as a retired soldier, I have seen and participated in too many such events. However, this funeral had an effect on me that no other did; an effect for which I want to thank the people of Dubois.
My father was career Air Force and therefore, I have traveled from one base to another and one post to another all my life until recently. I have never had the opportunity to live or spend any length of time in a small town. In spite of this, I would like to say that I have always believed in the ethereal concept of “Americana”, the core belief system portrayed in Norman Rockwell’s wonderful paintings…things such as patriotism, independence, a belief in progress through hard work, community spirit, and a bond between neighbors. It is such a wonderfully powerful thing to believe in. It was a strong enough belief for me to want to dedicate my life protecting it.
Unfortunately, never did I see it until last weekend. One might ask, how did I see it? I saw it when I first drove into Dubois and noted the many flag poles, all at half mast. I saw it in the hushed, sad, reverent tone of everyone in the town the entire time my wife and I were there. I saw it in the faces of the people lining the street. I saw it in the respectful way the two high school girls stood there with flags in hand, not giggling with each other, not talking to boyfriends on their cell phones, but both respectful and both close to tears. I saw it in the face of the many “Marlboro Men” standing there with their hats over their hearts, and the look of genuine grief. I saw it in the face of the young woman who had her baby on her left hip, and flag in her right hand, consciously or not, teaching her child an early lesson in patriotism. I saw it in the face of the older woman in pink who was standing at the video store, shivering, but standing there nonetheless.
I saw it in the face of the 16 or 17 year old blond Boy Scout, who also had a large flag in hand. He wasn’t there to socialize. He wasn’t there to earn a merit badge. He was there to pay respect for a brave American who embodied everything the Boy Scouts stood for and who died for them. That wouldn’t be cool in a big city. I saw it in the volunteer fire department standing there respectfully. It was apparent in the determination of the members of the VFW to once again be sharp in their “about face” in spite of old wounds and age. I saw it in the long lines of tables, covered with food. Food that didn’t come catered or boxed from a business or grocery store, but was cooked in a hundred kitchens and in casserole pots with family names on them. It was shown by the fact that the Motel 8 owner and kind clerk didn’t charge my wife and me for the room that night because we were there for the funeral. I heard it in the patriotic music playing in the Water Wheel store and the genuine kindness with which the store owner spoke of the entire family. I felt it in the honest welcome my wife and I received wherever we went in Dubois.
Last Saturday was a very sad day for me, but it was also a good one. I gave over 20 years of my life; and much more, Chance gave one year AND his life, to preserve it. Thank you Dubois. Thank you for confirming to me that Americana really exists. I’ll never forget you and hopefully, will come back to visit someday during a happier time.
And thank you Chance."