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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Desmond Doss

Sam over at Someday They'll Name a Street After Me tells the story better than I could, but just to add my two cents worth anyway.

We watched a History Channel documentary on  Desmond Doss  last Wednesday and it made quite the impact on my two younger sons who immediately set out to separate fact from fiction. They were pleased to find that much of what they'd learned about him was proven fact. Desmond was a man who was determined to serve his country and still live according to his conscience and his beliefs. By the way he enlisted on his own; he was not drafted. His motto was, "I am here to save lives, not take them" and it earned a mix of admiration and fury among his fellow soldiers and his superiors. His unshakable stand in the face of huge opposition, when it would have been far easier just to capitulate is awe inspiring. "I knew that if I ever compromised once in my beliefs, that it would be easier to compromise the next time and I wasn't willing to take that chance," he once said.

Of course his story would hold great appeal for someone who dislikes guns and killing as much as I do, but I was surprised to learn that he is one of my former Marine husband's favorite heroes. Gary was most impressed with the man's fearlessness. When many others would have left wounded on the battlefield in order to save their own lives, Doss stayed and stayed, carrying one soldier after another to safety, many of them left for dead by other medics because the sized up their wounds and felt that they needed to treat those with a better chance of survival. And he did it all without worrying about defending himself.

Strange and fascinating stories follow him. Some I'm sure are a mixture of legend and fact. But it cannot be denied that through many battles he walked on and off the field unscathed. That he often did his work at night, when none of the other medics would leave their fox holes. That he placed himself in great danger while dangling from a bluff in order to tie a rope net to the boulders there so he could get to the top of the hill and rescue the soldiers there. In his company of 150 men, only 55 survived unhurt. Desmond single-handedly rescued 75 wounded and dead soldiers. One of the stories told about him was that a Japanese soldier captured during the battle said that he'd attempted to shoot Desmond more than once, but every time he did, his gun jammed. Whether all of that is true or not, I think even the Japanese had to admit that he was a man on a mission.

And his heroism didn't stop after the war either:

 He continued to serve his community in remarkable ways.

The rest of Desmond's life is told fairly well in his obituary below:

His Obituary

Oh--and you really should see the Documentary

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