Son reflects on dad’s story depicted in ‘Hacksaw Ridge’

Military Times

TACOMA, Wash. — Mel Gibson’s new film “Hacksaw Ridge” tells the story of a World War II soldier, Desmond Doss, who received the Medal of Honor for single-handedly rescuing 75 wounded soldiers.

On an escarpment known as “Hacksaw Ridge” on Okinawa, Doss refused to find cover, plunged into the line of fire to find his injured comrades, and one by one lowered them down a cliff with rope to friendly hands. He may have even helped a few wounded Japanese soldiers, reported The Daily News.  
“One more,” Andrew Garfield — who plays Desmond Doss — repeats to himself as he lowers another wounded soldier to safety, his hands soaked with blood. “Lord, please help me get one more.”

But this is no ordinary war hero. A devout Seventh Day Adventist, Doss refused to touch a gun. He was the first conscientious objector to receive the award. And his son Desmond Doss Jr., of Ilwaco, says the movie is ultimately not about war or patriotism. It is about love. About a man who gave it unconditionally.

“This movie is really a love story,” Doss Jr. said. “That’s what we need in this world is more caring for each other. And here’s an example of somebody that was a vehicle for some incredible love.”

Desmond Doss Jr. said it was a “perfect” portrayal of his father. It’s like he came alive on the screen, he said. Garfield, an Australian, perfected Doss Sr.’s mannerisms, from his Southern dialect to his “quiet determination.” So it was emotional for both of them when Desmond Jr. met Garfield.

“He asked me what I thought of what he did. I said, ‘You nailed it. It’s perfect.’ And he was moved by that,” Doss said. “He wanted to do that. He wanted to become my father.”

Desmond Doss Sr. grew up in Virginia and was drafted in 1942. He became a private first class for the 1st Battallion, 307th Infantry in the 77th Division, but spent his first two years persecuted by the U.S. Military. His nuanced, quiet strength throughout those challenges were perfectly captured on the big screen, Doss Jr. said.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Doss said. “I was just completely taken by it. I thought I was watching my mother and my father.”

Doss said his father’s heroic act on Hacksaw Ridge was not a one-time incident. He had received the Bronze Star for his work as a combat medic on Guam and the Philippines. But even before that, his son said, Doss was a man of unconditional love, day in and day out.

He found his faith as a boy, inspired by a poster of the 10 Commandments on the wall of his home. The Sixth stuck out: “Thou shalt not kill.” Even before he entered the military, young Desmond’s faith was tested by his father, William Doss, who was abusive toward his mother. That struggle is depicted in the film, too.

Desmond Doss Sr. did not always receive considerate treatment in return. Because the solider refused to bear arms, an officer tried to have him discharged on grounds of mental illness. He also tried to court-martial Doss for refusing a direct order.

“Sometimes I hear people saying he was patriotic. Well he was, but that’s not the point,” Doss said. “The point is he just had this love for people.”

Doss Jr., who cleans the post office and volunteers as a firefighter, said he’s not religious himself but has a spiritual life.

“I can’t imagine life without it,” he said. “There’s a statement in the Bible that says God is love. … I try to think in those terms — what’s loving, what’s caring, what’s compassionate.”

For Desmond Doss Jr.’s first five years of childhood, he wasn’t allowed to see his dad. Desmond Doss returned home in 1946 with serious injuries in his arm and legs. He had contracted tuberculosis. Desmond Jr. was 5 years old by the time his father was no longer contagious and able to check out of the hospital.

“The war is never over. It’s just never over,” he said. “It affects the people that were there … but it goes way beyond that. It affects the families. It’s very disruptive to life.”

Desmond Doss Sr. died in 2006 at his home in Alabama. Film directors had been after him for years to make a movie, but he only authorized Gibson to do a feature film. A book about his life is called “The Unlikliest Hero.”

Doss Jr. said he didn’t have a “normal” life with his parents; much of it was surreal, like moments when he would find himself in a room with hundreds of Medal of Honor recipients.

Even now, his father continues to influence his life in unbelievable ways. Doss Jr. was quietly working at the post office in Ilwaco when calls began streaming in about his father. He’s met movie stars and Mel Gibson. And he just returned home a week ago after a trip to California to see the premiere and across the country.

What his father did in World War II was a “natural outgrowth” of who he was, his son said. And now, more than ever in a world of division, Desmond Doss Jr. said he hopes people get the right message out of the movie.

“That’s who he was. … Some people know who they are. I sincerely hope that people walk away with that insight and connection with their own self. Who am I? What’s intrinsic to me?” he said. “Am I fearless or am I fearful?”

Information from: The News Tribune,

5 thoughts on “Son reflects on dad’s story depicted in ‘Hacksaw Ridge’

  1. This film is total propoganda. They want you to think picking up arms against Gods enemies or in time of war is non Biblical. The commandment is thou shall not murder. Much different then thou sall not kill.

    Ecclesiastes 3New International Version (NIV)

    A Time for Everything
    3 There is a time for everything,
        and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    2     a time to be born and a time to die,
        a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    3     a time to KILL and a time to heal,
        a time to tear down and a time to build,
    4     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
        a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    5     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
        a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    6     a time to search and a time to give up,
        a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    7     a time to tear and a time to mend,
        a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    8     a time to love and a time to hate,
        a time for war and a time for peace
    The man must have been mental if this story is even true.

    1. Ah, but in Matthew 5:39 we hear Jesus say to “offer no (violent) resistance to one who is evil.”

      The truth is that the Bible is inconsistent on this point and on many others. That’s why Christianity split into so many different sects over the centuries, each picking and choosing which parts of the Bible they want to accept or ignore. And in the end, who knows what Jesus actually said or didn’t say? No one can prove one way or another.

      I’m not an atheist, but I see no reason to trust every word out of the Bible or any other book. Thus, I’m going to follow my conscience, which rejects pacifism. Aggressive threats and violence often need to be answered with opposing force. To fail to do so is to abandon the weak to the whims of the cruel.

      Ironically, compassion for the defenseless can be the spark that initiates violence. E.g., the sadism of US police has led to retaliatory cop-killings by individuals who were unrelated to the original victims of police brutality.

      Getting back to the film, hopefully it will send at least one crucial message: violence isn’t necessarily justified simply because it’s in service to a government. For violence to be just, the same standards and conditions apply, regardless of whether the violence is done on orders as part of a military body or as an individual acting autonomously.

      1. ” Aggressive threats and violence often need to be answered with opposing force. To fail to do so is to abandon the weak to the whims of the cruel.”

  2. We are taking the guns, guns are bad, guns kill people.

    This is your rifle boy now go out there and kill em.

    and they come home with PTSD ever wonder why.

    All of your childhood you are taught fighting is bad and do not kill.
    When you go against what you know is wrong your body and brain react because they are in conflict. I bet this CO never suffered PTSD and that is my take.

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