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This Is Why We Stand: Revisiting the Story of Desmond Doss


Like all who served, Desmond T. Doss is a symbol of American strength and selflessness. His story is a reminder to us all that you don't always need to wield a weapon to serve your country. The mission to serve can be accomplished in many different ways.

Doss became a member of the United States Army in April of 1942, right in the thick of World War II. Due to his devout religious beliefs, Doss refused to handle weapons or work on the Sabbath. He was labeled as a conscientious objector by the Army because of this. In spite of these circumstances, Doss became a combat medic, seeing it as his best way to fulfill his duty. As most would expect, he endured harassment from all levels of the Army for his stance. Doss may have refused the gun, but he never refused to put himself in dangers way to save the lives of those around him.

Desmond Doss portrayed by actor Andrew Garfield in the award winning film, Hacksaw Ridge. (Photo: heavy.com)

For his actions during the battle for Okinawa in the Pacific theatre of WWII, Doss was issued the Medal of Honor. During the infamous battle, American forces were driven back off a 400 foot ridge after a Japanese counterattack. Many wounded Americans were trapped on top of this position as a result. As an unarmed medic, Doss was on the ridge with them. He refused to seek cover, carrying each injured man to the edge of the ridge before lowering them by rope to friendly forces on the ground. Doss is credited with single-handedly saving 75 of his comrades.

To the left is a real image of the ridge from 1945. To the right is a depiction of the ridge from the movie, Hacksaw Ridge. (Photo: historyvshollywood.com)

Doss' Medal of Honor citation was for his actions between April 29 and May 21, 1945. Some historians believe that May 5, 1945 is the date of when he saved 75 fellow soldiers.

Another portrayal of Desmond Doss by actor Andrew Garfield In Hacksaw Ridge. (Photo: ACED Magazine)

During the fighting that ensued after May 5, Doss continued to put himself in harms way so that others might live. He was eventually seriously wounded in the leg after a grenade explosion, but rather than having another medic emerge from cover to save him, Doss cared for his injuries alone for five hours. When he was finally being carried off on a stretcher, Doss noticed another soldier who seemed worse off than he was. He then got off the stretcher and instructed the medics that were tending to him to help that soldier instead. While waiting for the medics to return again, Doss suffered a compound fracture of his arm after being struck by a bullet. According to his Medal of Honor citation, after being hit, "He bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station."

Desmond Doss and his wife Dorthy Doss pictured at the White House after being presented the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman. (Photo: people.com)

Doss found his own way to honor his principles while never abandoning his commitment to service. Like Doss, we all have the ability to serve our country in our own unique way. There is nothing that can stop us when we believe in what we are doing. If you don't believe that, all you have to do is remember the story of Desmond Doss.

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