Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
“Lord, help me get one more,” he prayed. “One more!” And as bullets flew through the Okinawa air on May 1, 1945, as shells burst around him, Private Desmond T. Doss, a medic in the U.S. Army's 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division, lifted first one, then another of his wounded comrades and carried them to safety. Three years later, on November 1, 1945, he would be honored for his heroism by President Harry S. Truman, who presented the conscientious objector with the Medal of Honor.
The official Medal of Honor citation describes Doss' heroic rescues during the Battle of Okinawa:
As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying all 75 casualties one-by-one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On May 2, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards [180 m] forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and 2 days later he treated 4 men who had been cut down while assaulting a heavily guarded cave...
The citation continues on and on. When finally Pfc. Doss was injured by an exploding grenade, rather than calling for another medic to expose himself to enemy fire, Doss treated his own wounds and waited five hours to be rescued. As he was carried by stretcher off the field, he saw another soldier who was more seriously injured—and he rolled off the stretcher, telling his rescuers to carry that man to safety instead.
For his heroism during World War II, Doss' name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.
In his obituary in March 2006, the New York Times reported that Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist, was guided all through his years by a framed poster of the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer that his father bought at an auction when he was growing up in Lynchburg, Virginia. That poster depicted Cain holding a club with the slain Abel beneath him.
Doss told Larry Smith in “Beyond Glory,” an oral history of Medal of Honor winners, how the poster influenced him to become a conscientious objector:
And when I looked at that picture, I came to the Sixth Commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill.' I wondered, how could a brother do such a thing? It put horror in my heart of just killing, and as a result I took it personally; 'Desmond, if you love me, you won't kill.'
In November, the story of Desmond Doss' heroism will come to theaters nationwide in “Hacksaw Ridge”, a new war drama directed by Mel Gibson and written by Gregory Crosby, Robert Schenkkan and Randall Wallace. The film combines drama and action, overlaid with faith.
The official synopsis from Lionsgate gives filmgoers an idea what they can expect:
HACKSAW RIDGE is the extraordinary true story of WWII medic Desmond Doss, played by Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spiderman), who, in Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of WWII, miraculously saved 75 men in a matter of hours without firing or carrying a gun. He was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon, except the simple prayer he uttered before he single-handedly evacuated the wounded from behind enemy lines, under constant enemy gunfire and artillery bombardment. Doss’ courage and faith won the admiration of his commanders and fellow soldiers, as he saved the lives of the very men who had persecuted him for refusing to carry a gun. He believed the war was just, but to kill under any circumstance was wrong. Doss was labeled the first conscientious objector (he called himself a “conscientious cooperator” as he volunteered) to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Hacksaw Ridge is directed by Mel Gibson (Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ) and also stars Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Teresa Palmer, Luke Bracey, Hugo Weaving, and Rachel Griffiths.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is coming to theaters nationwide November 4, 2016.