Desmond Doss volunteers during World War two to serve as a medic in the army, but refuses to carry a weapon on religious and personal grounds. His approach does not sit well amongst some of the other soldiers.
However, Desmond is no coward, and he proves himself during the brutal and bloody battle of Okinawa.
This film has been described as the most violent pacifist film you might see. The battle is violent and bloody, but Desmond shows himself to be a man of great courage and compassion as he seeks to protect and save his comrades.
When I visited an army padre training college a couple of years ago I came across a painting of Theodore Hardy, he was being presented with the Victoria Cross by King George. What is extraordinary is that Theodore was a padre in the army, during the First World War. He volunteered at 51 and was at first rejected, but kept on until the army accepted him. Before going in to battle he met Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy, a.k.a. ‘Woodbine Willy’, another army chaplain who advised him that the best place to be was out in the battle with the men. He took this advice to heart. Time and again he risked his own life in order to rescue those caught in ‘no man’s land’, under heavy fire from the enemy. He was awarded three medals for his bravery. The Distinguished Order, the Military Cross, and lastly the Victoria Cross. His incredible courage and dedication could have got him killed on many occasions, and sadly he did not survive the war, dying from a machine gun wound just three weeks before the end of World War One.
Desmond Doss was shaped by a couple of things. An incident in his childhood, when he attacked his brother Hal, had a profound impact on him; when he saw close up, the effect that violence could have on another person. This went on to inform his beliefs and approach to life. It seems to me that we are possibly all shaped by those two things, our experiences and our beliefs, and perhaps one informs the other. I can think back to those members of my family, and the friends and strangers who have impacted me for good, and helped to shape my beliefs in a loving, caring God. I am also aware of the people and incidents which have shown me that life is not easy, that it’s a battle sometimes, and that this world is a broken place. I am not courageous like Theodore or Desmond, but I have been shaped, and continued to be shaped, by my beliefs and my experiences. I’m so grateful to those who have helped me and pray that I may perhaps impact others, in little ways, for good.