3/29/06

    The Unlikeliest War Hero

    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
    tolerance.

    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
    duty.

    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.
                                                                                                           
                                                                                                            
                                                                                                            
                                                       
7/13/06

    Tucson's Ground Breaking
    Bread Breaking

    ‘Freedom’ is an overused word that
    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
    or another.

    In Judaism, the Seder celebrates
    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
    evening.

    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
    color.”

    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.

    In this day and age of every special
    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
    Seder.


    --Lisa Bowman