Desmond T. Doss died this year at the
age of 87. A World War II hero, his
actions served his country in the highest
sense. On October 12, 1945, Doss
received from President Harry Truman
this country’s highest award for valor, the
Medal of Honor. It was a fitting tribute to
a man of extraordinary courage. But
Doss also lived a life of faith with
extraordinary completeness. The
combination of these elements
combined in one man to form a
persuasive argument for religious
Was Doss first a hero or first a man of
faith? The attributes frequently
complement one another. At the very
least, they are not mutually exclusive.
However, it’s not unusual for someone to
possess one quality and not the other.
To own both in such large amounts is
what made Doss unique.
Heroes risk their lives to save the lives
of others. Hollywood’s wartime
propaganda films in the ‘40s portrayed
its World War II heroes as brawny,
square-jawed men. Doss was a slight
man, but every pound of him was heavy
with heroism. He proved that when he
put the lives of at least 75 men ahead
of his own in the spring of 1945. Doss
was an Army medic, a PFC, when the
1st Battalion of the 77th Infantry division
moved onto the island of Okinawa.
Near the beginning of May, he was
part of an assault on a 400-foot jagged
escarpment called Maeda. As US
troops gained the summit, they came
under heavy fire from the Japanese.
Their casualties mounted and the
battalion was driven back. But Doss
refused to leave behind the wounded
men who were stranded at the summit.
Without seeking cover, he stayed and
one by one, lowered the wounded down
the face of cliff, using a tree stump and a
rope. Doss later said that as he eased
each man over the side, he just kept
praying that the Lord would let him
rescue one more. The Army wanted to
recognize his valor by crediting him with
100 lives. Doss demurred, saying it
couldn’t have been more than 50. A
compromise was reached: the official
number would be 75.
The Medal of Honor Citation includes
several heroic incidents. It concludes
with this one: On 21 May, 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
littler bearers’ return, he was again
struck, this time suffering a compound
fracture of one arm. With magnificent
fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his
shattered arm as a splint and then
crawled 300 yards 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
As a result of his wounds, Doss spent a
total of nearly six years in the hospital. In
addition to his battlefield injuries, he also
had contracted tuberculosis, which
eventually cost him a lung and five ribs.
Doss began to lose his hearing and was
totally deaf by 1976. (continued...)
Click Next Page below for page two of
The Unlikeliest Hero.
Tucson's Ground Breaking
has finally frayed around the edges.
There is not a cultural group today
that doesn't believe their ‘freedom’
is being impinged upon in one manner
man’s most basic freedom, liberation
from slavery, in this case of the Jews
from the Egyptians. This freedom to
breathe as a sovereign individual, to
create one’s own destiny, certainly is
worthy of celebration and contemplation
by those who have suffered.
But can the concept of the Seder be
made inclusive of non-Jews and still
retain its validity? Tom Warne, a board
member of Tucson, Arizona’s Jewish
Community Relations Council believes
it can. Recently he co-chaired an unusual
event in which the Tucson community
joined together to experience an
observance of the Seder. And in the
process, they got to do a little reinventing
of the wheel, which was fine with Warne.
He said that the human fabric becomes
“stronger, healthier and more beautiful”
with the inclusion of all races and
religions, according to an article in the
Arizona Jewish Post.
And so the first Tucson Freedom Seder
included Muslims, Jews and Christians
breaking bread together. They were
joined by a diverse list of community
groups representing among others,
African-Americans, Mexican Americans
and the University of Arizona. In all,
about 200 attendees took part in the
Much of the program was traditional.
Portions of the Passover story were
read. But things took a unique turn
when the African spiritual ‘Go Down,
Moses” was sung. A mariachi
band later performed.
Attendees say the event encouraged
the building of trust. Participants were
urged to sit at the tables with people
whom they did not know. Tucson City
Council member and co-chair Nina
Trasoff then suggested that the table
mates, “engage in conversations
about what your barriers have been,”
in regards to other races and cultures.
Former Tucson Mayor, George Miller
was one of the speakers. He is quoted
in the Arizona Jewish Post as saying
that when he came to Tucson in 1939,
the city basically was “a southern town
with legal segregation.” And at Tucson
High School, “there were only a handful
of Jewish students. There was very little
mingling back then.”
Minnie Andrews, who taught in Tucson
for 30 years and now is an associate
professor at Northern Arizona University,
related her own story of being the first
black cashier hired in Tucson. “The
owners were Jewish,” she said. Even
though the city was segregated, “They
were brave enough to hire a person of
Obviously, Tucson has changed a lot
over the years. What the Jewish
community in Tucson has achieved
with the Freedom Seder is a grass-
roots catalyst for even more change.
By integrating the community into one
of their sacred practices they have
placed everyone’s human needs on
a par with their own. Their actions
make a statement that many people
have struggled under oppression and
that all deserve to be free.
interest group focusing exclusively on
their own agenda, the Freedom Seder
is a refreshing change.
Miracles rarely happen over night…
or because of one event. But it’s
awfully difficult to dislike someone
with whom you’ve broken bread, or
shared a moving experience. That's
such a simple concept. But what a
powerful one. We applaud the Freedom