Chase Comley liked to be the center of attention.
On Monday night at the Kentucky Theater, on what would have been his 25th birthday, Comley was again the focus.
The documentary Too Pretty to Die debuted before a Lexington crowd of 175.
The 75-minute film uses extensive interviews with family and friends in Lexington interspersed with handheld video footage shot by the Sayre School graduate in Iraq to paint the portrait of a brash, fun-loving young man, who like thousands before him joined the U.S. military seeking direction and purpose. Comley was the lead driver on a patrol in August 2005 when a suicide bomber in an SUV struck, killing him and injuring two other Marines south of Fallujah.
The film depicts what happens as his family's personal mourning intersect with the public, ongoing debate over the purpose of the Iraq war that has forced every person to choose a side.
In the days following his death, relatives publicly expressed their anger in the Herald-Leader and elsewhere at President Bush and the decision to invade Iraq. Weeks later, Comley's mother responded with an opinion piece defending her son's decision to join the Marines and wrote that not all the Comleys opposed the war.
First-time director Tiffany Freisberg attended Sayre until the eighth grade. She gives weight to both sides, but doesn't lead the viewer one way or the other.
The question remains how Comley's death or the other 4,192 should be viewed. Is it a personal tragedy for his family, a talking point in the media or both? Was he a president's pawn, a hero or both?
Many in the audience were friends and classmates of the Sayre graduate. Pictures and home movies of Comley brought back memories for many of the now twenty-somethings.
People could be heard wiping away sniffles and tears in the dark theater.
Regardless of the political questions, "It was just good to look back and see Chase again," said former teammate Chris Lemaster. "He was unlike anyone else."
The film will be shown again at midnight Saturday at the Kentucky Theater.