Desmond Doss was a United States Army Corporal who served as a combat medic in World War II. Doss’s mother raised him as a devout Seventh-Day Adventist and instilled Sabbath-keeping, nonviolence, and a vegetarian lifestyle in his upbringing. This of course became an issue once Doss tried to enlist in the military. However, Doss was not deterred by any of his obstacles. He felt a patriotic need to serve his country in any way possible.
Desmond Doss figured that if he joined as a medic he could avoid carrying a weapon, and thus protect his lifestyle of nonviolence. However, this approach was not met with support from his superiors and his infantrymen. Doss’ refusal to kill an enemy soldier or to carry, or touch, a weapon, led to those around him to believe that he was weak and a liability. So upon arriving for basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Doss was treated as such. He experienced much physical and psychological abuse from his superiors during his training, and many attempts were made to have him discharged from the military. However, Doss did not sacrifice his morals and beliefs to help comfort those around him. He instead highlighted the areas of the U.S constitution that protected his rights and allowed him to serve for his country – weapon or no weapon.
Upon being deployed to the infamous Battle of Okinawa, Doss saved the lives of 75 wounded infantrymen atop the Maeda Escarpment. He was seen by fellow soldiers running into the Japanese’ line of fire to save other wounded soldiers. He ran into the battle field without a single weapon to protect him against enemy forces. Doss was later proclaimed a hero and was awarded the Medal of Honor by the then U.S President Harry Truman. Desmond Doss’ decision to stick by his morals and principles is what led him to becoming a hero and saving all of those lives.
More often than not, if your beliefs or principles do not match with society’s, it will be met with hardship. Doss believed that he would be betraying himself by sacrificing who he was to bring comfort to others. His story runs deeper than the lives he saved, it’s a story about strength and an unapologetic need to be himself. After the war was over, many producers and writers approached Doss and asked to turn his story into a film or novel. Again, Doss stayed true to himself, his only requirement that the story stays “accurate to the events that occurred”. His story was later brought to the big screen by Academy Award Winning director Mel Gibson. The film, Hacksaw Ridge, captures the essence of who Doss was. The story remained true to Doss’ life and paid homage to his heroic story. Audiences everywhere got to see as actor Andrew Garfield portrayed the spirit of Doss while also capturing his soft spoken demeanor. Doss’ story, as well as the film, illustrated that heroism, bravery and courage come in many different forms. It does not always appear strong, and can in fact be mistaken for weakness. However, once revealed, courage and bravery is often the fuel that produces great and powerful moments.
Author: Idil Dahir