All military members serving on Okinawa, Japan are provided opportunity to learn about the special place the island holds in our nation’s history. It was the sight of one of the bloodiest and costly battles our nation has ever fought. Many gave their lives in a place hitherto unknown to them.
One of the heroes of the Battle of Okinawa was Desmond T. Doss, the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his selfless and heroic deeds. His memory is cherished for the bravery and sacrifice he demonstrated and the commitment he had to his faith despite the burden it placed upon him. Few have modeled such commitment.
Hollywood Oscar buzz is beginning to resonate and one movie receiving considerable attention is Hacksaw Ridge – due for release early in November (see the trailer here; story behind the trailer here). It is the story of Army Medic Desmond T. Doss. Though there is some hype and a great deal of violence (R rated) the movie portrays the true story as few Hollywood spectaculars do. Check out History vs Hollywood to see for yourself.
As you prepare to view the film, you may want to read the interview done with Charles Knapp, retired U.S. Army Colonel and chair of the Desmond Doss Council of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Dr. Knapp knew Doss personally for many years and speaks with personal knowledge of Desmond as a child of God.
When asked if Doss would be happy with the film Knapp replied, “Yes, he would. It would be very difficult for him to watch it because Desmond, like a lot of our young men and women who serve now, came home with what we now know as PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder]. Back then, it was called “shellshock.” There’s no question that Desmond suffered from it. He dealt with PTSD partly by talking about it, which is effective.”
As chaplains we play critical roles in supporting all uniformed members in their sincerely held religious beliefs. Often times an individual who has discovered in his or her faith an opposition to violence and war is viewed with skepticism, ridicule, and disdain. In Doss we see an individual who endured such abuse but held to his beliefs even to the detriment of his personal well being. And he did so without regret, rancor, or hostility toward those who were unable to understand or accept his convictions.
His story is well worth telling and his life worth emulating. Doss didn’t simply talk about his faith, he lived it as well. May we do the same
Executive Director, Military Chaplains Association