Des­mond Doss re­mem­bered for ‘un­con­di­tional love’

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY PAUL LEACH STAFF WRITER

When Con­gres­sional Medal of Honor re­cip­i­ent Pfc. Des­mond Doss risked his life to save his com­rades in the bloody is­land cam­paigns against Ja­pan in World War II, he was just be­ing who he was.

His son, Des­mond Doss Jr., shared that mes­sage with Col­legedale Academy stu­dents in a spe­cial chapel ser­vice on Thurs­day.

The el­der Doss, sub­ject of the movie “Hack­saw Ridge,” re­fused to carry weapons be­cause of his re­li­gious be­liefs and served as a United States Army medic. His Medal of Honor ci­ta­tion cred­its him with res­cu­ing 75 sol­diers wounded by heavy en­emy fire at the top of a 400-foot

cliff dur­ing the bat­tle for Ok­i­nawa in spring 1945. He brought the in­jured men back to the ledge, one by one, and low­ered them by a rope lit­ter to safety.

“He did this for 12 hours,” Doss said of his late fa­ther’s ac­tions at Hack­saw Ridge. “That’s a re­ally long time to be do­ing some­thing. There’s still all these bul­lets still fly­ing around, still bad things hap­pen- ing out there and he’s go­ing back, [bring­ing them back] one at a time.”

Be­fore Ok­i­nawa, the el­der Doss had al­ready re­ceived the Bronze Star Medal twice for heroic ser­vice, Doss said. He saved the lives of fel­low sol­diers who had mocked and beat him for not want­ing to fight the en­emy. He also showed kind­ness to an in­jured en­emy soldier.

While de­scribed as a con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tor be­cause he re­fused to carry weapons, his fa­ther pre­ferred to be de­scribed as a “con­sci­en­tious co­op­er­a­tor,” Doss said.

From a young age, his fa­ther, a Sev­enth-day Ad­ven­tist, de­cided to em­brace the qual­i­ties of un­con­di­tional love, for­give­ness and clar­ity of pur­pose, he said. That’s what made him do what he did. Doss urged his au­di­ence to nur­ture those qual­i­ties within them­selves and to live by them.

“What we do to­day de­ter­mines what we do to­mor­row,” Doss said. “It’s re­ally like that.”

The el­der Doss, who died in 2006, wasn’t larger than life, but an or­di­nary man who did ex­tra­or­di­nary things, his son said.

Jamie Hen­der­son, a Bat­tle Academy se­nior, shared her thoughts on Doss’s ex­am­ple af­ter the as­sem­bly.

“I read the book about Des­mond Doss back in mid­dle school and ever since then I’ve been so in­spired by him and his will­ing­ness to stand up for what he be­lieves in,” Hen­der­son said. “To have

his son here to­day was just amaz­ing.”

Another se­nior, Calle Turk, said it was up­lift­ing to un­der­stand Doss was a real, or­di­nary man who was “pas­sion­ate about God.”

Doss as­sured stu­dents the movie por­trayed his fa­ther ac­cu­rately, de­scrib­ing

how he would not ap­prove of a film un­less it met two re­quire­ments. It had to glo­rify God, not him, and it couldn’t be fic­tion­al­ized.

His fa­ther turned down a movie pro­posal 70 years ago be­cause it couldn’t meet those con­di­tions, he said. Seven­teen years ago,

he gave his bless­ing to the “Hack­saw Ridge” script con­cept, which ma­te­ri­al­ized as the Mel Gib­son-di­rected film re­leased in 2016.

Doss said his fa­ther in­spired him to serve oth­ers with love. Like the el­der Doss, he joined the U.S. Army as a con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tor and trained as a medic. After­ward, he pri­mar­ily served as a fire­fighter, he said.

When his fa­ther was young, he had to face the fact he could have killed another boy when he hit him with a rock. It turned into a defin­ing mo­ment that he car­ried with him ever af­ter, Doss said.

The el­der Doss strug­gled to make the right choices, and he made mis­takes like ev­ery­body does, his son said.

“A lot of times we think that peo­ple that we hold in high es­teem, they were just born that way some­how,” Doss said. “They never screwed any­thing up in their whole life, right? And that’s just not how it works.”

STAFF PHOTO BY ERIN O. SMITH

Des­mond Doss Jr. speaks to the stu­dent body of Col­legedale Academy and Col­legedale Ad­ven­tist Mid­dle School Thurs­day in Col­legedale. Doss is the son of Con­gres­sional Medal of Honor re­cip­i­ent Des­mond Doss Sr.

STAFF PHOTO BY ERIN O. SMITH

Stu­dents raise their hands Thurs­day when asked if they had seen “Hack­saw Ridge” as Des­mond Doss Jr. speaks to the stu­dent body at Col­legedale Academy and Col­legedale Ad­ven­tist Mid­dle School. “Hack­saw Ridge” is about Doss’ fa­ther, Des­mond Doss Sr., who won the Con­gres­sional Medal of Honor for his ser­vice in World War II. For more in­for­ma­tion about Des­mond Doss, visit www. desmond­doss.com.

Des­mond Doss Sr.

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