The Conscientious Cooperator

I was introduced to Desmond T. Doss in a Netflix documentary of his service in 2010. He was a Seventh Day Adventist, an ordinary man whose extraordinary faith and courage left an indelible mark on the combat history of our nation.

     He never touched a gun or killed an enemy soldier, but the heroic exploits of Alvin York and Audie Murphy cannot compare to what he did. He was the first conscientious objector to win our nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

     Mel Gibson brought this remarkably true story to moviegoers in the film titled, “Hacksaw Ridge.” It is a must-see for the Christian patriot. This Memorial Day weekend I felt compelled to share his story again.

     Growing up in a Christian home Desmond was appalled to learn of the story of Cain and Abel. He could not understand why a man would kill his own brother. As a boy he vowed to never take another man’s life.

     When the attack on Pearl Harbor ushered the United States into World War II, Doss thought it was his patriotic duty to enlist. That first night in the barracks he was taunted for praying while his fellow recruits threw their boots at him. When he refused to train on the Sabbath or touch a firearm, he was ridiculed. Doss vowed while others would take lives he would be by their side to save lives.

     Despite the repeated humiliation heaped on him, he never took offense nor compromised his faith. When the 77th was deployed to the Pacific Theatre, in one engagement after another, this man his fellow soldiers called a coward distinguished himself repeatedly in providing lifesaving aid to those who fell in combat.

     Eventually the 77th was sent to Okinawa to reinforce the American troops attempting to take the island. The Japanese had retreated to the Shuri escarpment, a plateau three hundred feet above the island. The last fifty feet was a vertical climb made possible only by the use of ship cargo nets. The Americans called it Hacksaw Ridge.

     The Japanese were well entrenched. In nine successive assaults the Americans had reached the plateau only to be thrown back by withering fire. On April 29, 1945, A Company tried again. As the day closed, A Company was forced to retreat leaving seventy-five casualties behind.

     During the next twelve hours, under cover of darkness, Doss climbed to the top, alone and under constant fire from enemy snipers, he rescued every single man by dragging each one to the edge of the escarpment and letting them down by a rope. Doss prayed, as he let each man down to safety, “Lord, let me get one more.”

     Doss said of himself, “I was not a conscientious objector, I was a conscientious cooperator.” Doss exemplified the words of Christ, who said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” John 15:13.

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