Life Lessons from a Medic in WWII

Life Lessons from a Medic in WWII

Happy Fourth of July!

In celebrating and remembering the sacrifice of our military for our country’s freedom, there is an inspiring movie, based on a true story of an Army medic during WWII that has encouraged me to persevere when life seems overwhelming. I usually don’t watch too many violent war movies, but this one was inspiring. I hope it encourages you… as you are making a difference every day in the lives of others.

Desmond Doss was drafted into the United States army in April 1942. He wanted to serve his country as a medic, but with a strong faith conviction not to bear arms, labeling himself as a “conscientious cooperator” instead of “objector.” After being bullied for saying his prayers at night, carrying a Bible into combat, called a coward by peers, misunderstood by superiors, and threatened to be court-martialed for not carrying a weapon, Doss made his way to the Pacific as a medic with his division in the invasion of Okinawa, an island 340 miles south of mainland Japan.   

The Japanese forces were deeply entrenched on the island. Private Desmond Doss and his battalion were ordered to climb cargo nets to ascend a steep 350-foot rock embankment that ran across most of the island called the Maeda Escarpment, later known as “Hacksaw Ridge.” After the ascent, troops were met by heavy artillery that hammered the American troops from caves, holes, tunnels, and booby traps.

The US soldiers involved recall the brutality of the battle at Okinawa, that bodies lost in combat were piled as high as they could reach. Doss was a target, as the Japanese would take out medics in order to demoralize their enemy,

After one atrocious battle, the battalion eventually retreated back down the embankment, leaving dozens of casualties behind. Private Doss in all seriousness of his role as a medic could not leave and said, “They were my buddies, some of the men had families, and they trust me. I didn’t feel like I should value my life above my buddy’s, so I decided to stay with them and take care of as many of them as I could. I didn’t know how I was gonna do it… So I just kept prayin’, ‘Lord, please help me get more and more, one more, until there was none left, and I’m the last one down.'” — Medal of Honor: Oral Histories

Doss spent 12 hours dragging one casualty after another to the edge of the cliff and lowering them to safety. The military estimated he saved 75 wounded soldiers, averaging 1 man per 10 minutes.

On the morning of May 5, 1945, Doss was given time and permission to read his Bible by the commanding officers, putting the assault on hold until Desmond finished his devotions. That day, the 307th Infantry Regiment of the 77th Infantry Division overtook Hacksaw Ridge for good. In 1945, President Truman awarded Private Doss a Metal of Honor for his sacrifice

Private Doss said, “I felt like it was an honor to serve God and country, We were fightin’ for our religious liberty and freedom.”

There were more testimonies of God’s protection of Doss in the battle than there’s time to write here. Several poignant lessons from this story can be seen.

  • We remember our militaries’ sacrifice for our country’s freedom.
  • With passion and perseverance we serve our country and humanity.
  • Caring for one person at a time can make a difference.

I’m sure there are some days in the medical field that make your head spin, with the chaos and weariness of caring for so many people’s needs. Remember Private Doss. Say a little prayer for help – “just one more.” At the end of the day, know you have helped many persons in need… and isn’t that what brings us life?

I’d like to close with a simple prayer, God, we give You thanks for where we have come from, and ask we move forward with love for the betterment of others, so we can all make a difference in our spheres of influence and live in unity.  







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