Memorial Day: Remember the Heroes
If you’ve read much of my observations in this blog you’ll know I am a firm supporter of our military, regardless of my support for our Commander-in-Chief. But what you don’t know is that my family history until only two generations ago has been populated by conscientious objectors. Not the IDONTWANNADIESOIOBJECTTOKILLINGANYONE cowards but folks who are extremely religious and hold that Jesus told us to “turn the other cheek” therefore, I can do no violence toward another human being.
(Stick around because there is an amazing hero story in a moment.)
ARROGANCE vs. SACRIFICE
In this Republic, we call the United States of America, our leaders serve at the whim of the electorate, yet they rarely understand this. They seize the power granted them, by often slim majorities, and arrogantly lord over us, often abusing that power as though they had a right to do so. Disrespecting those they serve and condescending to those who dare challenge their power.
On the other hand, those who serve in the military, willing give up power, submitting themselves to the whim of political leadership. Leaders who often have no military experience, and in some cases even lack respect for, or worst despise them. Yet without question or hesitation, these amazing men and women charge into harm’s way, exchanging healthy bodies for mutilated ones and life for death.
In my family political differences abound. However, love of country and respect for those who serve and have died in that service have been core family principles whether left or right, politically. With that I want to thank our military for the extreme danger they brave while defending those who support them as well as those who do not. Following orders unquestioningly and bleeding in obedience to leaders the rest of us question, doubt, and openly oppose. Their sacrifice preserves this sacred right.
I realize it is Memorial Day not Veteran’s Day but when remembering the sacrifice of others one cannot help but to think of those laying it on the line today.
In tribute to those who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom I want to share one unlikely and unsung heroic story.
AN UNLIKELY HERO: DESMOND T. DOSS
In April 1942 a young man with deep religious convictions was drafted into the U.S. Army. He was a conscientious objector and thus generally despised by the soldiers. A Seventh Day Adventist, he refused to drill on Saturday, took the commandment against killing personally, and even went so far as to refuse to eat meat. Doss also refused to carry a gun and thus became a Medic in the 77th Infantry Division.
An unarmed vegetarian, Doss was labelled a coward. Many in his company threatened him, one going so-far as to promise to kill him when they got into battle. Each night when he knelt beside his bed to pray, some of the men tauntingly threw things at him. Desmond undeterred in his convictions, felt no resentment toward these men. He understood that the men believed he was feigning religious objections to avoid the line of fire.
However, Doss knew better. Engaged in action first at Guam, then in the Philipines, and eventually at Okinawa, Doss placed his life in peril to rescue his wounded brothers while in direct line of fire.
Saturday May 5, 1945 the Japanese counter-attacked the 307th Infantry positioned atop a 400 foot escarpment they had taken the day before at Okinawa. Under heavily concentrated artillery, machine-gun, and mortar fire, 75 infantrymen were killed and the rest driven back. The wounded and dying littered the ground. Forsaking his Sabbath, Doss refused to seek shelter or retreat. He remained in the heat of the battle with the wounded.
Doss slowly carried each man, one by one, to the escarpment and gently lowered them down its face to safety. He never wavered in his determination not to leave a single survivor on the battlefield. The Army later stated that Doss may have personally saved the lives of 100 men, Doss believed it was 50.
OTHERS BEFORE SELF
In the following weeks, the 307th saw action three more times. In each case Desmond Doss braved bullets, grenades, and mortar fire to dress wounds and get the wounded to safety. Finally on May 21st, a grenade tore through Desmond’s legs seriously wounding him. Insisting that no other medics come under fire, Doss tended his own wounds for five hours.
Finally rescued and riding the litter toward safety, Doss spotted another wounded soldier and hopped off the litter, directing the other man take his place. Finding another wounded soldier, the two men embraced and began hobbling off the battlefield.
The Japanese fell upon them again. Doss had his arm around the other man’s neck when a bullet shattered his upper arm. Doss’ injury saved the other man’s life by shielding his neck from the bullet’s deadly effect. Binding his arm to a rifle, Doss carried his first and only gun as the two men crawled the remaining 300 yards to safety.
Bound for the hospital, Doss discovered the Bible he always carried was missing. When word of this reached his battalion, these men who once ridiculed Doss for his religious dogma, combed the battlefield until they found the mud-soaked prize and carefully returned it.
THE MEDAL OF HONOR
On October 12, 1945 Private Desmond T. Doss stood before President Harry S. Truman on the White House lawn. It was here that Doss made history, credited with saving 75 men at Okinawa, he became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. A true hero without a weapon.
I’m certain Desmond received an even greater reward on March 23, 2006. Desmond remained true to his values, true to his country, true to his fellow soldiers, and most importantly, true to his God. And this is why I’m celebrating his service and sacrifice. True he did not die in battle, but he gave his all. His wounds disabled him and his pain lasted a lifetime. Now he has passed into history and his story is one worth remembering.
Thank you Desmond! And to those who have given their lives in battle for this nation, I thank you too!