(SPOILER ALERT! The following is based on the Gibson film “Hacksaw Ridge”, a depiction of the true story of Desmond Doss. Thus, if you have not seen he film and intend to, I suggest you not read this until you do.)
Desmond Doss stood at the top of a cliff on Okinawa.
Below him was relative safety among his fellow American soldiers. Behind him was pure carnage. Doss and his unit had just been through pure hell, spending the day battling Japanese troops seeking to hold on to Hacksaw Ridge.
Like many of the battalions before him, his unit and two others had been chopped to bits during the fight. Except for the wounded laying among the debris and fog of war, and Japanese infantry wandering the battlefield looking for American men to send to their ancestors, Doss was the only living soul around. The other Americans had retreated off the ridge.
A look of confusion passed Desmond’s face. He had volunteered to join a combat union when the United States opened hostilities with Japan during World War 2, but only as a medic. His values, informed by his Christian faith, prevented from touching a weapon.
But Doss was just as offended as other Americans at the Japanese surprise attack of Pearl Harbor. He wanted to serve his country. But Desmond had determined that he would seek to save lives, not take them.
“God, I don’t understand,” he said. Desmond had done his duty during the battle, but his overall purpose seemed to elude him. Then he heard the cries of his men from the fog.
“Ok,” he said. At that point Doss knew why he was there. He faced the battlefield and moved out to save his comrades.
Desmond’s had already demonstrated enough courage for most men. He had battled the U.S. Army for the right to even be a medic. His commanding officers labeled him a conscientious objector and even a coward.
Doss preferred to think of himself as a “conscientious participator.” Even so, his leaders had sought to court martial him and drum him out of the service and he had even endured physical and emotional abuse from the other men in his unit because of his stance.
During the night and into the next day Desmond went from man to man, comforting them physically and emotionally. He carried American soldiers one by one to the edge of the cliff and lowered them down in an ingenious makeshift rope contraption.
Desmond’s mantra throughout his ordeal was “God, just one more. Help me to save one more.” After lowering one, he would go back to find another.
At one point, caught below ground in the Japanese caves as he evaded the enemy, he once ran into a wounded opponent. Instead of killing him, Doss patched him up. In fact, he managed to lower two hurt Japanese soldiers off the cliff.
The commanding officers and doctors back at the American encampment were amazed at the number of survivors from the battlefield. When asked how they had gotten there, they pointed to the work of Doss.
In one last trip to and from the battlefield, Desmond escaped down the rope climb with himself and another soldier in tow. Japanese soldiers fired at him from the top while American soldiers protected Doss and his “package” from below.
As Desmond was carried away, soldier after soldier looked at him with respect. Later his commanding officer asked Doss’s forgiveness, and told him that the men had to go back the next day, but that they wouldn’t go without him.
Desmond continued his heroics during the ensuing victory and was again carried wounded from the battlefield, this time wounded. On the stretcher he called for his Bible. In it were the source of his values and his inspiration, a picture his wife.
For his work on Hacksaw Ridge Desmond Doss became the first conscientious objector to ever be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
I have seen many inspirational movies, but this one ranks at the the top. I was quite moved at Desmond’s life and heroism. Afterwards, I stayed behind in an empty theater as the credits rolled. I bowed my head prayed, dedicating myself to God and his work again.
It is my desire to carry out my own personal mission to mankind from now until I enter eternity. I don’t know yet exactly how this desire is to be carried out, but as God showed Desmond the need of each man around him at the top of Hacksaw Ridge, I am sure he will reveal his task for me in serving them, also.
I do know prayer from here on out will be the same as Desmond’s: “Just one more. God, give me just one more.”