March 23, 2017

Dear Liberty,

     “Lord, please help me get one more.  Just ONE more.”

     These were the words of Private First Class Desmond Thomas Doss as he ran back onto the battlefield to rescue one more injured soldier.  Originally mocked by fellow soldiers for not wanting to kill the enemy or carry a gun, Doss risked his life over and over to pull those same men from the threat of death.

     Doss was raised in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which taught the principle of non-violence.  When the United States entered World War II, Doss was working at a shipyard in Virginia.  (see A Date Which Will Live In Infamy)  He could have sought a deferment from his draft because of his employment, yet Doss wanted to support his country.  He enlisted in the Army as a medic believing this would prevent him from carrying a gun.  No such luck.  He was assigned to an infantry rifle company with the 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division.  


     From day one, Doss received insults, ridicule and harassment from fellow officers.  Yet, refusing to work on the Sabbath (Saturday), eat meat, train with a rifle, or even carry a weapon could induce tense feelings on an army base at wartime.  Doss spent his off-time reading his Bible and praying, which only caused more strife between him and his unit.  

     As a boy, Doss saw a poster of Cain standing over Abel.  The image left such an impression on Doss, he vowed never to take the life of another human being.

"My dad bought this Ten Commandments and Lord's Prayer illustrated on a nice frame, and I had looked at that picture of the Sixth Commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill.' There's a picture that had Cain and he killed his brother Abel, and I wonder how in the world could a brother do such a thing? I've pictured Christ for savin' life, I wanna be like Christ go savin' life instead of takin' life and that's the reason I take up medicine."

     Even though Doss performed all his other duties to perfection, his commander tried to get him discharged on a Section-8.  Labeled a “conscientious objector”, Doss argued he was actually a “conscientious cooperator,” as he still wanted to serve his country, just not with a gun.  At the hearing, Doss declared, “I'd be a very poor Christian if I accepted a discharge implying that I was mentally off because of my religion. I'm sorry, gentlemen, but I can't accept that kind of a discharge."  Doss remained in the Army.

     The hostility between Doss and the other soldiers was so intense, he actually received death threats from his own unit.  However, when his unit was finally deployed and on the battlefield, attitudes began to change.  Despite his fellow soldier’s attitudes, Doss displayed exceptional courage while caring for his wounded men at Guam.

     During their next fight in Leyte, Doss evaded sniper fire as he brazenly entered the battlefield to treat and retrieve the wounded.  While attending an injured man in the open, fellow soldiers witnessed a Japanese sniper aiming for Doss.  Unfortunately, their position prevented them from taking a shot at the sniper as they might hit one of their own.  Completely helpless, the men watched as Doss dressed the wounded’s injuries and carried him to safety while the sniper remained silent.  The men were stunned Doss was not killed.  Years later, a missionary at Leyte used Doss’ story in his sermon.  A Japanese man told a deacon, "That could very well have been me. I was there, and I remember having a soldier in my gun site, but I couldn't pull the trigger."

     After receiving the Bronze Star for his heroism, Doss’ fellow soldiers began warming to the Bible reader.  In fact, many began believing in the power of Doss’ prayers.

     On April 29, 1945, at the base of the Maeda Escarpment on Okinawa, Japan, Doss’ Company B waited until the medic finished his prayer before beginning their assent up the 350-foot slope while Company A scaled their section.  Both companies were met with gunfire at the top, yet Company A had to drop out after suffering multiple casualties.  It was all up to Company B.  They fought hard, destroying at least eight pillboxes.  By the end of the day, Company B not only overtook the position, they did so with no casualties.  A feat considered impossible.  Headquarters inquired how this was acheived.  After much thought and calculation, the final report was submitted with the following explanation: “Doss prayed.”

     Unfortunately, the victory at Maeda Escarpment was short-lived.  The Japanese quickly counter-attacked, sending the Americans back down over the slope.  After several days, both sides suffered losses of either wounded or killed.  Then orders came to storm the escarpment, or Hacksaw Ridge, again.  

     On Saturday, May 5th, as the only medic in the unit left, Doss prepared to accompany his fellow soldiers.  However, since it was the Sabbath, he requested a moment to read his Bible, which was granted.  

     Hidden by a series of caves and foxholes, as the battle began, the Japanese exited their sanctuaries and attacked.  Doss’ battalion was ordered to retreat, but over two-thirds of the men never made it to the ridge.  As the last of the able-bodied soldiers scaled down the slope, Desmond Doss stood at the top looking at a sea of injured men, and an army of Japanese ready to use him for target practice.

     Doss quickly got to work bandaging and tending to the wounded.  But they needed off that ridge.  Using what rope and netting he could find, he devised a make-shift device to lower the men over the escarpment.  One by one, Doss carried the injured soldiers to the ledge and sent them to safety at the bottom of the slope.  For twelve hours he prayed, “Lord, please help me get one more.  Just ONE more.”  And then he did at a rate of about one per ten minutes.

     Eventually, the Americans regained the territory and drove the Japanese back yet again.  But in another counter-attack a few days later, a grenade landed at Doss’ feet sending him flying through the air.  Seventeen pieces of shrapnel penetrated his body, which he bandaged himself while waiting the five hours till he was found the next morning.  As they were carrying him off the battlefield, Doss noticed a soldier more injured than he.  Crawling off the stretcher, Doss tended to the wounded man,  insisting they take him first.  Doss then met up with another wounded soldier and they leaned against each other as they limped to safety.  Before making it, a Japanese sniper bullet ripped through Doss’ arm, rendering it unusable.  Doss fashioned a make-shift splint with the barrel of his fellow soldier’s rifle and the two completed their journey to shelter.

     While in the hospital, Doss realized he lost his most precious item.  Before leaving for training, Doss’ new bride gave him a Bible.  It was this Bible that gave Doss hope, encouragement and strength.  Now it was gone.  He informed the hospital, hoping someone would find it.  However, Doss left Japan for America on May 21, 1945, without it.

     The White House invited Doss to the grounds on October 12, 1945, where President Harry S. Truman presented him with the Medal of Honor.  Doss is the first conscientious objector to receive this award and the only one from World War II.  Nevertheless, Doss received a greater reward from his fellow soldiers.  “You can’t always win, but when your buddies come to you and say they owe their life to me, what better reward can you get than that.”

     Doss’ commander contended that Doss saved at least 100 lives while Doss humbly maintains it was only about 50.  When the citation was issued, official records compromised and reported 75 men.  However, official records indicate that only 55 of the 155 soldiers involved reached safety unassisted.

     The Medal of Honor was not the only surprise waiting for him in the states.  The men of his unit, who just a short time ago wanted him tossed out of the company, or worse, to kill him themselves, returned to Hacksaw Ridge after the Americans secured it to retrieve the most priceless belonging of their most treasured friend.  They found it and mailed it to him at his home.

     Doss was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1946, which he contracted in Leyte, and spent the next five years recovering from his injuries and illness.  He eventually lost a lung and 5 ribs due to his illness before he was honorably discharged in 1951.  Doss’ injuries rendered him 90% disabled.  Yet, he never regretted it.  "I felt like it was an honor to serve God and country. We were fightin' for our religious liberty and freedom."

     And through it all, Doss never forgot where his courage, or protection, came from.  "When you have explosions and bursts so close you can practically feel it, and not get wounded up there when I should have been killed a number of times. I know who I owe my life to as well as my men. That's why I like to tell this story to the glory of God, because I know from the human standpoint, I should not be here.”

     Doss lived a quite, but happy life with his wife, Dorothy, and son, Desmond Jr. in Georgia.  In the late 1980's, Dorothy was diagnosed with breast cancer.  While driving her to the hospital in 1991, the couple was in a car accident, which resulted in Dorothy’s death.  He remarried two years later to Frances Duman, who was at Doss’ side when he passed away on March 23, 2006.

     Liberty, we often measure courage as the ability to stand up to the fight even though all we want to do is run.  But sometimes the most powerful courage is standing up for your principles.  Desmond Doss displayed tremendous bravery by not only facing the enemy, but by also facing his unit.  By doing so, he changed the hearts and minds of those around him.  

     As you get older, friends, associates and society in general will place immense pressure on you to accept evolution, abortion, sexual immorality, and government control while ridiculing God.  They will try to convince you that you have to give in a little on your beliefs, and you will be tempted to do so.  Even Doss was tempted to go ahead and carry a gun, yet he later said, ”I knew if I ever once compromised, I was gonna be in trouble, because if you can compromise once, you can compromise again."

     Those are important words to remember, Liberty.  Satan knows if we give in just a little, take just one little bite of the fruit of the Forbidden Tree, he has us.  (see Fruit Of The Forbidden Tree)  That is why we do everything we can to resist.  But those times where we fail, where the temptation overcomes us, we know that Christ resisted on our behalf and paid the price anyway.  What better reward can you get than that?

     Regardless, we must stay in the battle, doing what we can to bring souls to Christ, praying, “Lord, please help me get one more.  Just ONE more.”

     That’s my 2 cents.