Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Conscientious Objector- PFC Desmond T. Doss

A conscientious objector is an individual who, on religious, moral or ethical grounds, refuses to participate as a combatant in war. Many serve in non combat roles such as a medic. They are often call “cowards” or “un American” by their detractors.

Desmond T. Doss was such a man. Very patriotic, Desmond joined the Army during WW2. A Christian who believed that killing under any circumstances violated God’s laws, Desmond refused to carry a weapon in training or combat, finally earning him the status of conscientious objector as well as the ridicule of his fellow soldiers. PFC Doss became a medic and was attached to the 77th Infantry Division.

During the battle of Okinawa, Desmond’s unit, 1st Battalion, attempted to assault what was known as “the escarpment”, a steep cliff with entrenched Japanese on the summit. The troops had to use man-made ladders to scale the rocks, only to be driven off the summit by intense enemy fire. Between 50 and 100 dead and wounded were left on the plateau. PFC Doss scaled the face of the cliff, and rigged up a litter to let the wounded down. As an unarmed medic, his only protection was his faith in God and he continued in prayer all while he treated the wounded and lowered them down the escarpment. The whole time PFC Doss was exposed to enemy fire with bullets whizzing by constantly. Doss worked alone until all the wounded were evacuated. PFC Doss is credited with saving between 50 and 100 wounded comrades and was awarded the Medal of Honor. The citation reads as follows:

He (Doss) was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet (120 m) high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machine gun 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 them 1 by 1 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 strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within 8 yards (7.3 m) of enemy forces in a cave's mouth, where he dressed his comrades' wounds before making 4 separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On May 5, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Pfc. Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet (7.6 m) from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards (91 m) to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On May 21, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Pfc. Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers' return, he was again struck, by a sniper bullet while being carried off the field by a comrade, this time suffering a compound fracture of 1 arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards (270 m) over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.

What spiritual lessons can we learn from the story of PFC Desmond Doss?

1) A true warrior’s weapons are their faith and convictions
PFC Doss had a conviction based on his beliefs. He had the faith to live it out under the most distressful circumstances. His convictions and faith were more important than his own life. Doss was a slight man in stature, but a giant in faith and courage. He put the wounded in his care above his own life and safety.

As Christians, tend to posses convictions and a faith that vacillates with shifting situations. We must be willing to trust God’s word even to the point of death. Our morals and beliefs should be unshakable no matter what comes our way.

2) The best witness is living out your convictions in the battle
PFC Doss never tried to push his convictions on anyone. He didn’t argue with those accusing him of being a coward. He won over his unit and commanders by demonstrating his integrity and devotion to his unit. He spoke softly but exhibited a huge faith.

As Christians, it is easy to talk ‘faith and power’ until the firefight begins. It is in this battle we are tested. We should walk humbly allowing our good works to do the speaking for us.
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matt 5:16)



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