Private Desmond Doss walked into the bloodiest battle of World War II’s Pacific theater with nothing to protect himself save for his Bible and his faith in God. A devout Seventh Day Adventist and conscientious objector, Doss had enlisted as a medic and refused to carry a rifle.
The fighting took place on the hellish Maeda Escarpment in April 1945. The battlefield, located on top of a sheer 400-foot cliff, was fortified with a deadly network of Japanese machine gun nests and booby traps. The escarpment, nicknamed Hacksaw Ridge for the treacherously steep cliff, was key to winning the battle of Okinawa. The mission was thought to be near-impossible, and when Doss’s battalion was ordered to retreat, the medic refused to leave his fallen comrades behind.
Facing heavy machine gun and artillery fire, Doss repeatedly ran alone into the kill zone, carrying wounded soldiers to the edge of the cliff and singlehandedly lowering them down to safety. Each time he saved a man’s life, Doss prayed out loud, “Lord, please help me get one more.” By the end of the night he had rescued an estimated 75 men. (The always modest Doss reckoned he saved about 50, but his fellow soldiers gauged it closer to 100. They decided to split the difference.)
Now, the unbelievable story has come to life in the Mel Gibson-directed Hacksaw Ridge, with Andrew Garfield starring as Doss. The film earning a 10-minute standing ovation at its red carpet world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
The Honorable Lou Gehrig Lou Gehrig was a great baseball player well loved by many fans. Nicknamed the “Iron Horse,” he was a strong and talented athlete. Then he was struck by a slowly debilitating form of spinal paralysis. Some would have reacted with bitterness, some with despair. When Lou Gehrig realized where his life was headed, and stood to give a farewell address to fans at Yankee Stadium, he taught America about grace and honor under adversity. After listing the blessings of his life—his parents, his wife, his teammates, and many good games—he said “I may have been given a bad break, but I have an awful lot to live for. With all this, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
THE LAKOTA INDIANS
The Lakota tribe was known as some of the greatest warriors of all time. They were feared in battle. Every young man was raised to be a warrior for the tribe. Within the tribe of warriors was a small group of men called the Red Shirt Warriors. The color red in Lakota culture stood for honor. They were the best of the best, a prestigious club that every young warrior wanted to strive to be a part of. Every four years, the Red Shirt Warriors extended an invitation to a select few of the young warriors to test themselves in order to be admitted to the group. The physical tests were difficult and not all those invited were able to pass. The first tests were ones that allowed the young warriors to demonstrate the skills of battle – marksmanship, horsemanship etc. But the last test to earn membership to the elite group was a difficult test of endurance. The test had a time limit of four days and was done during the hottest part of the year. Each young warrior was sent out by themselves, without food or water and only a knife for protection and told to follow a well-known path to a high shale cliff. They were instructed to climb the high cliff and recover a red sash that had been tied to a stone at the top of the mountain. Their goal was to recover the sash from the top of the cliff and return to camp with it within the four day time period. Little did they know that the tribal elders had actually placed two red sashes on the mountain. One rolled up tied red sash that when unfurled was about 6 feet long had been placed at the top of the mountain on the high cliff (which is the one they were instructed to return with), and one rolled up tied red sash that when unfurled was only about 3 feet long which had been placed at the bottom of the mountain just off the side of the trail and easily gotten. Because of the difficulty and distance, the young warriors would usually get back by sunset of the fourth day, exhausted, thirsty and hungry. Upon arriving back to the tribe and before they were given any food or water, they were escorted into the lodge of the Red Shirt Warriors and asked to present the sash they had recovered. According to their stories, no one being tested ever returned without a red sash. The sash was to be held tightly in their hands. The young man was asked to hold one end of the sash at head height and let it unfurl toward the ground. If it extended all the way to the ground, the man had gained membership and was considered a Red Shirt Warrior. If it did not reach the ground, he was denied membership, and never allowed another opportunity to join the elite group. No explanation was given to the ones denied and no explanation was ever needed, because it wasn’t just a test of endurance, but more importantly, a test of honor.
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