On April 1, 1942, Desmond Doss enlisted in the U.S. Army, embarking on a journey that would lead to a Medal of Honor and a remarkable White House ceremony. Amidst the 16 million World War II soldiers, only 431 earned this prestigious award, and Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist combat medic, stood out for his refusal to carry a weapon.
A Challenging Path to Service
Doss’s commitment to duty emerged when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Despite the option to defer, he chose frontline service to defend freedom. Assigned to an infantry rifle company, his refusal to carry a gun led to ridicule and challenges from fellow soldiers and commanding officers. Yet, his unwavering conviction and prioritization of faith and duty sustained him.
Faith and Conviction Amidst Adversity
Desmond’s upbringing instilled a deep respect for the Bible’s commandments, particularly “Thou shalt not kill.” He applied this belief to his life, vowing never to take a life. His religious observance of the seventh-day Sabbath further set him apart, earning scorn from comrades and superiors alike.
Acts of Compassion on the Battlefield
Amidst combat in Guam, Leyte, and Okinawa, Doss demonstrated unwavering dedication to saving lives. As others took life, he risked his own to rescue fallen comrades, disregarding personal safety in the face of enemy fire. His compassion, even towards those who mistreated him, earned him respect.
Hacksaw Ridge: A Sabbath to Remember
The pinnacle of Doss’s heroism occurred on May 5, 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa. As the Maeda Escarpment, known as Hacksaw Ridge, became a fierce battleground, Doss disobeyed orders and single-handedly saved at least 75 lives. His Sabbath became a testament to his iron determination and unflagging courage.
Honors and Recognition
Beyond the Medal of Honor, Doss received numerous accolades, including a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Presidential Unit Citation. His representation of Medal of Honor recipients at the White House in 1962, alongside President John F. Kennedy, highlighted his esteemed standing among fellow heroes.
Post-war Struggles and Legacy
Discharged in 1946, Doss battled tuberculosis, a consequence of his wartime hardships. Despite the removal of a lung and enduring health challenges, he lived on a single lung until his passing at 87 in 2006. His final resting place is the National Cemetery, Chattanooga, Tennessee.