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Marine Pfc. Chance R. Phelps

Died April 9, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

19, of Clifton, Colo.; assigned to 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; killed April 9 by hostile fire in Anbar province, Iraq.

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Camp Pendleton Marine killed in Iraq

Associated Press

DUBOIS, Wyo. — Pfc. Chance Phelps, a Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based Marine killed in Iraq last week will be buried in his former Wyoming hometown, a friend said Monday.

Phelps, 19, of Clifton, Colo., will be buried in Dubois, said Ed Wilkerson, a friend of the family and commander of the VFW chapter in Dubois. No date was set.

Phelps died in gunfire Friday while battling insurgents west of Baghdad, according to his father, John Phelps, who lives in Dubois.

The Department of Defense confirmed Phelps’ death Monday. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

His mother, Gretchen Mack, said she learned of her son’s death when two Marines showed up at her door at 2 a.m. Saturday.

“I don’t think anything can prepare you for two young men standing in the living room telling you your son’s been killed,” Mack said. “It’s just surreal. They were crying.”

She last talked to her son last Wednesday night.

“He said, ‘Mom, I’m fine.’ He sounded great,” she said. “It was really good to be able to talk to him. It made us feel better.”

Members of the Colorado House of Representatives observed a moment of silence for Phelps on Monday at the request of two lawmakers from Grand Junction, Colo.

Mack said her son drew people to him with his humor.

“He had an unusual amount of zest,” she said. “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 Dubois.

“He was very in tune politically,” said Mack, who lives in Riverton. “He knew what he wanted for this country. ... He told me after 9/11, ‘I absolutely have to go. I’ve got to do something.”’

Joining the military isn’t anything new for the family. John Phelps is a Vietnam veteran. Chance Phelps’ sister, Kelley, 22, works at the Pentagon and is engaged to an Army sergeant.

Chance Phelps spent his early years in Dubois, then moved to Craig, Colo., while in grade school. His mother was married to Craig resident Guy Whitlock for eight years. After the marriage ended, she moved to Palisade, Colo., where Phelps graduated from high school last year.

“He was a great kid,” Whitlock said. “Everybody liked him. He was an athlete, an avid hunter and he liked the outdoors. He liked all the things that Moffat County had to offer.”

Sometime during high school, Phelps decided he wanted to be a soldier, “especially after 9/11,” Whitlock said. “I’m very proud of him.”

Friends recall Phelps as a fun-loving, hard-nosed kid. He was big but didn’t throw his size around to intimidate people, said Jarod Estey, 19, of Craig.

“He was probably the toughest kid I knew growing up in grade school. He was probably the biggest kid, too — well-built and strong,” he said. “But he was real easy going. He always had a smile on his face.”

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Marine’s Wyoming hometown in shock at his death

DUBOIS, Wyo. — Residents who knew a Marine killed in Iraq are in shock, said a woman who once provided daycare for the family.

Pfc. Chance R. Phelps, 19, was shot in the head April 9 while battling insurgents in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, according to his father, John Phelps, who lives in Dubois.

Chance Phelps was deployed to Iraq just over a month ago with the 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division based in California.

“I can’t even comprehend what John’s going through,” said Gay Baker, who cared for Chance when he was a preschooler. “It’s such a heartache, such a shock. What a tragedy.”

Chance moved with his mother to Colorado while still in grade school, Baker said.

He attended high school in Craig, Colo., before transferring to Palisade, Colo., as a senior, graduating in 2003.

Phelps handled the transition to the new school handily, said Jan Norell, a gym teacher.

“It’s really hard for a kid to do, to fit in and make an impact,” she said.

He joined the football team and earned a letter. “He was so proud of his letterman jacket and his varsity letter,” she said.

In football, Phelps became friends with teammate John Hakes, who remembers him as “kind of like a country boy.”

“He was always doing something goofy,” said Hakes. “He always had a smile on his face. He brought camaraderie more than anything.”

Hakes followed Phelps into the Marines and expects to be deployed to Iraq this fall.

“I thought we were both invincible, that nothing could touch us,” said Hakes. He said he was asked to be an honorary pallbearer at his friend’s funeral.

The family was waiting for Phelps’ body to be returned before scheduling services, said Ed Wilkerson, a friend of the family and commander of the VFW chapter in Dubois.

— Associated Press


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