I have a new hero and his name is Desmond Doss.
Mel Gibson was recently in town for a preview showing of his latest movie Hacksaw Ridge. Hacksaw Ridge recounts the story of Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss. You probably don’t know his story, but his story is one Christians need to know. His example is one we need to emulate.
Desmond Doss was twenty-three when he enlisted in the Army in April 1942. Patriotic to the core and anxious to help America win the war over the Axis powers, Doss enlisted … as a conscientious objector.
Doss was willing to go to war, but he was unwilling to kill an enemy soldier or carry a weapon into combat because of his beliefs as a Christian.
Doss’ greatest enemy in the war may not have been the Japanese he encountered in the Pacific theater. It was his fellow soldiers! They couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t fight. They ridiculed him. Humiliated him. Scorned him. Beat him. In short, they did everything they could to force him to quit and leave the army, but Doss was not a quitter.
The officers assigned him arduous duty. Refused to give him liberty. Threatened him with court martial. Still he refused to quit.
Doss was a patriot. He wanted to defend his country. He didn’t join the Army to kill people. He joined to save them. He wanted to be a medic.
Eventually the army relented allowing Doss to train as a medic, a role in which he would eventually distinguish himself. Hacksaw Ridge recounts his exploits on Okinawa in graphic—violently graphic—detail. It’s not an easy movie to watch, but it is a story worth knowing. (I encourage you to read the Medal of Honor citation recounting his exploits. Just click here.)
I was invited to review the movie. What I went away from the movie thinking had little to do with my analysis of the movie as a critic.
Desmond Doss is a hero of a different sort. Sure, his exploits as a medic are heroic. At least 75 men lived through the assault on Hacksaw Ridge because of him. He repeatedly risked (and almost lost) his own life to save them. That’s why he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the first contentious objector to be so honored. For me, though, his heroism extends well beyond what he did in battle.
Desmond Doss was true to his Christian convictions despite unimaginable opposition from those closest to him. He never flinched or backed down from what he believed. That’s the story Christians need to hear and emulate. Why?
There was a time when the commonly held values of ordinary Americans was sympathetic toward Judeo-Christian values. That time is quickly passing. Every day biblical values become more counter-cultural, more hotly contested and more socially divisive. As adult believers, we need to be true to the Bible in both the public and private arenas. As guardians of the next generation, we need to teach our children how to be faithful to Christ even if it is not popular to do so. In short, we need to live counter cultural lives and to teach our kids how they can as well.
Pfc Desmond Doss was true to his Christian beliefs despite severe opposition. As Christian beliefs become more counter cultural, his story is one we need to tell. His example is one we need to follow.
If you are interested you can find several documentaries on Desmond Doss’ life on YouTube including these: Desmond Doss - Award-Winning Documentary: The Conscientious Objector, Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge - The True Story Behind The Movie / Trailer, This Is Your Life - Desmond Doss.