Doing The Right Thing

Friday night was rare.

My husband and I had the chance to see a movie–for once, unencumbered by kids (all three were out of town), activities or other obligations.

Because Worthington currently lacks a commercial movie theater, we went to Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, which has been screening one film per weekend when live performances aren’t underway.

This weekend’s feature was “Hacksaw Ridge.” The film came highly recommended, having received six Academy Award nominations, including nods for best director (Mel Gibson) and best actor (Andrew Garfield).

Without question, however, the “star” of this show is the real-life hero on whose story the film was based: Desmond Doss.

Doss was a simple Virginian whose heroics during one of the worst battles in the Pacific Theater during World War II (on the island of Okinawa) are unparalleled.

Sure, other soldiers may have been equally as brave at various times, but Doss bears the unusual distinction of surviving hellish combat scenarios with nothing to protect him but his faith and a small Bible given to him by his wife, Dorothy.

As a devout Seventh Day Adventist, Doss firmly adhered to his beliefs, which included keeping the Sabbath (observed on Saturday in his denomination) holy and following the Ten Commandments–notably in this instance, “Thou shalt not kill.”

Yet Doss felt so strongly that the evil being perpetrated by the Axis powers was enough of a threat to life and liberty that he enlisted, requesting to serve as a combat medic.

The contrast between Doss’ resolve, values, courage, faith and strength in the face of unimaginably adverse conditions, and the behavior currently being demonstrated by some of our leaders, couldn’t be greater. (Visit the website ridge to learn more about Doss’ heaven-blessed heroics.)

Here are only four elements of Doss’ example that I submit for your consideration:

  1. His words matched his actions. Doss enlisted in the military, stating outright that he was a conscientious objector who wanted to help the Allied effort but refused to bear arms or kill another human. Even when humiliated, taunted, threatened and beaten–and that was by his fellow soldiers and commanders–Doss stayed true to his word and beliefs, ultimately gaining the respect of those around him. “I felt like it was an honor to serve God and country,” Doss said in an interview later in his life. “We were fightin’ for our religious liberty and freedom.” Needless to say, Doss always kept his word and didn’t hide behind deferments (or quotation marks, or double-speaking spokespersons).
  2. Doss valued all humans equally. In the chaos and confusion of battle, Doss never paused to question whether he should help an officer before a private, or failed to assist a comrade who made his life miserable during basic training, or stepped back to a “safe zone” if someone else was in need. Evidence exists that he even helped a few wounded Japanese soldiers, although his American mates viewed that less charitably. Doss didn’t equivocate about the cost of providing health care to others, even though his own life (and not just a few dollars) was the price he could have paid for doing so.
  3. Doss remained faithful to his wife. Deeply in love with his wife, Dorothy, Doss didn’t choose to divorce her in favor of a younger woman as they aged, nor did he require a prenuptial agreement prior to marrying her. The Dosses were married for nearly 50 years at the point Dorothy died, killed in a car accident that occurred while Doss was driving her to a medical appointment necessitated by her breast cancer. He mourned her for two years until remarrying, and he remained married and faithful to his second wife, Frances, until he died in 2006. Clearly, Doss respected women and kept his wedding vows: “Till death do us part.”
  4. Doss exhibited no material greed. After the war, Doss was largely disabled and spent five and a half years in VA hospitals due to the extreme injuries he suffered while aiding others on the field of combat. Nevertheless, he scraped together money to buy a four-acre plot of land and, with Dorothy employed as a nurse, persisted in whatever jobs he could manage to perform. Weekend trips to private clubs? Not for the Dosses. More examples could be cited, but suffice to say “do the right thing” wasn’t just a slogan to Doss.