Today is Memorial Day — a day when America remembers and mourns the too-many soldiers who had died in this country’s wars.
Instead of glorifying wars, I decided that a way to mark Memorial Day 2017 is to honor and remember a Christian pacifist and one of the most courageous soldiers in our nation’s history — Desmond Doss, a combat medic in the U.S. Army in WWII, whose convictions and heroism are dramatized in the 2016 brutal and profoundly moving movie, Hacksaw Ridge.
A Seventh-day Adventist firmly committed to the Sixth Commandment “Thou shall not kill,” Private Doss refused to carry or use a firearm or weapons of any kind. He became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor for service above and beyond the call of duty by single-handedly rescuing 75 wounded soldiers during the terrible Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
Hacksaw Ridge was directed by Mel Gibson and marks his triumphal return to Hollywood ten years after his effective ostracism due to his alcohol-fueled anti-Semitic slurs and abusive rants of rage at his then-girl friend. First screened at the Venice Film Festival where the movie received a 10-minute standing ovation, Hacksaw Ridge was nominated and won many film awards, including well-deserved awards for Gibson and actor Andrew Garfield, who portrayed Doss.
Desmond Doss demonstrated that pacifism does not equal cowardice, and that one can be a patriot and a pacifist. Most importantly, he is a much-needed, timely reminder of the power of being a Christian. After Doss’ 77th Infantry Division had bivouacked for the night from the Maeda Escarpment (“Hacksaw Ridge”) battlefield, he alone returned to drag or carry on his back wounded soldiers, one by one, to the cliff’s edge and rappelled them down by rope.
After rescuing each soldier, Doss would pray: “Please Lord, help me get one more”.
For me, 7th Day Adventist Desmond Doss is also a reminder that all Christians, no matter the denomination, are all — and should treat each other as — brothers and sisters in Christ. Doss stayed married to his only wife, Dorothy, until her death in 1991. He died on March 23, 2006, at the age of 87.
The movie is now available in DVD and BlueRay format.