Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Desmond Doss -- Unparalleled Heroism, Unsurpassed Caring

I came across this story in the Washington Times about the recent death at 87 of Desmond Doss in March. He was one of only two Congressional Medal of Honor winners in the U.S. military who were conscientious objectors.

Doss was a devout Seventh Day Adventist and as such was an uncompromising pacifist. Yet unlike most other CO's, he was willing to join the army during WWII as a medic. An account of the events that caused him to be awarded the nation's highest military honor is described in the Times article and further details are provided here.

Doss' actions were harrowing and unparalleled. I pray that his selflessness and courage will never be forgotten by the public in general and particularly by all men and women given the priviledge and honor to practice the healing profession.

I am neither an Adventist nor a pacifist nor do I have the leonine determination, courage and love of my fellow man that he evidenced in his experiences in the battlefields of Okinawa.

In reading his obituary, I can't recall feeling more humbled.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yet unlike most other CO's, he was willing to join the army during WWII as a medic." Ummm, a couple of questions about this sentence. Do you have data about whether 'most' CO's were unwilling to serve as medics in WWII? And what about the fact that the draft was in place until 1970s, meaning that willingness to serve in the military was not an automatic out for CO's, to my knowledge. You may be right, because I haven't researched this, but your statement appears to be written with the assumption that CO's had a choice despite the draft and that most CO's chose not to serve. Hazy memory and personal acquaintance tells me CO's have for a long time served honorably and well as medics, including in Vietnam.

July 02, 2006 8:52 AM  
Blogger The Medicine Man said...

Dear Anonymous,

Very good questions and I confess making a statement that I have no good basis for having made.

I haven't done an exhaustive search of this so I can't vouch for the validity of the statistics that I uncovered but what I've seen superficially suggests the following:

25,000 CO's became medics in WWII. 20,000 CO's took nonmilitary jobs (some of which were dangerous such as becoming parachutists to fight forest fires in the states). 6,000 went to jail for their beliefs.

So it may well be true that many (if not most) of the registered CO's did in fact become medics.

Thanks for questioning a statement made casually without a strong underpinning of fact on my part!


July 02, 2006 11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the Anon above...thanks for your reply and the data. Your initial post struck a chord with me, because a dear old friend recently died, a kind and loving person who served as a medic in Vietnam due to his family history of religious pacifism. He experienced some horrible things over there, but served without a squeak. Your story on Doss made me think of my friend; may they both be honored in our memories, along with all our other veterans. We are blessed on this 4th of July to have such men and women watching over us.

July 03, 2006 9:27 AM  
Blogger The Medicine Man said...

Dear Anonymous,



July 03, 2006 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing about Desmond Doss: he had a draft-deferred job as a ship builder in Virginia. He quit that job so he could be drafted!

If you have ever had basic training, one thing that you don't want to do is to 'stand out' from anyone else. I imagine that Mr. Doss undertook more stress in basic than he did on Okinawa.

When he would get down on his knees at night to pray beside his bunk, boots would often be thrown at him. He was called a coward, a chicken, preacher man, etc.

It's hard to go through basic without having at least one buddy. However, Desmond did this. He would not make up his bunk on Saturday, would do no work on Saturday at all, yet through out all the other days he was a fine recruit.

Do disobey a DI during WWII was a dangerous thing. Beleive me! He would not touch a weapon in any form or fashion, and would disobey a direct order from both NCOs and officers in regards to picking up or touching a weapon.

He was offered a Section 8 discharge, but refused.

A coward? Not hardly!

A former SAC Staff Sargent

August 11, 2006 1:34 PM  

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