About staying true to your Convictions – based on Hacksaw Ridge, a movie on Desmond Doss directed by Mel Gibson

I watched a true life story of a man who wanted to serve his country in the Military but wouldn’t bear arms because of the covenant he had made with God. At first, they thought he was fooling around. They even sent him to the psychiatrist for analysis. He told them that he knew what he was doing. He wanted to serve in the front like the other soldiers but instead of taking lives, he wanted to save them. He wanted to be a paramedic and administer first aid and hope to the wounded. His superiors were concerned and thought he was saying that he was too holy to kill people but that was not what he meant at all. He just wanted an equal opportunity to serve. He subscribed for and passed all tests and trainings required by law to make one a soldier. That is all except rifle handling.

His superiors devised several means to kick him out. First, they asked him to scrub the worst toilets while his mates were out training. When they saw that he wasn’t complaining, they punished his entire squadron unnecessarily and said it was his fault. After the second day of punishment, his squadron mates came together in the middle of the night started beating him up. They would have killed him, except that their squadron leader pleaded on his behalf.

 

The next morning, he was in bad shape: His forehead was swollen, his pale face was blue black, he could barely open his eyes and there were bruises all over his white skin. Their commander came into their hall obviously satisfied with the outcome, and asked him to go home. He said that there was no shame in quitting now. The soldier in training dressed up in his camouflage and made to follow the officer out. ‘Go get your things, boy,’ the officer said but the boy replied, ‘No sir, I haven’t completed my toilet duty!’

 

The officer must have felt really stupid for everything he had put the young man through for he went on to ask, ‘Do you by any chance recognize who did this to you?’ He replied, ‘No sir, I sleep really deeply. I must have fallen off my bunk bed’.

After that, they cut him some slack until their passing out day. The day they would be officially inaugurated into the U.S Armed Forces. They lined up and were given their badges and passports. When it got to his turn, he was told that he had not met the requirements of being a soldier. He still needed to carry a rifle. He told them that as a paramedic that he didn’t need to so he didn’t want to. They detained him and said they were going to try him and if found guilty of disobeying a direct order from a superior, he would be sent to jail for 18 months.

All through the time I watched the movie, I was moved by his doggedness and the way he was able to stand true to his conviction even though everyone else thought he was crazy. While in prison, he missed his wedding. His sweetheart and he were scheduled to be married on the day they were passing out. They had arranged an intimate church wedding with few invited guests but because he was locked up, he couldn’t show up.

His commander came into the cell later that day and asked him to reconsider his decision, that it didn’t really mean anything either way. Still, he wasn’t moved. The officer then invited his fiancée to help convince him as well. She tried her best to convince him but to no avail.

Then he said something that really struck me: ‘I’ll never be able to live with myself if I do this!’ He knew that he was probably going to be penalized for his choice. In fact, he was already being punished and everyone thought he was crazy. But because he was convinced about this and he had promised God, he wasn’t about to give in. At this point, I was like, ‘this is it!’

All through the time he was suffering, I kept asking myself if it was worth it. I mean, learning how to shoot didn’t necessarily mean that you would kill someone but he wouldn’t even dare touch the gun.

Other strong thoughts I had were, ‘Why were these people so pissed that he chose a different path? Why were they so angry that his views were contrary to theirs? You could literally feel their hate when his name was mentioned. What is it about a person with strong convictions that makes people pee their pants? I guess I’ll never know.

One problem I have with some organizations or structures like the Military is that it usually seems as though the superior is always right or at the advantage so to speak so our dear friend’s case had already been decided even before the fair hearing was conducted. The soldier representing him asked him to plead guilty and apologise but he refused and stated that he didn’t commit any crime. He was just a conscience objector and wouldn’t bear arms.

Just as they were about to pronounce judgement and send him off to prison, his dad – an ex-military official burst into the room bearing a section of the constitution. A part which states that a conscience objector may serve in the Armed forces as a paramedic and should not be forced to bear arms. Thus, the tide changed in his favour and the prosecuting council were advised to drop their charges. So Desmond Doss, was inaugurated and presented with his own passport. He went on to do great things and it was recorded that during the war between the Japanese and the Americans, he alone saved 71 men including a few Japs and His Commander.

Although this is a story set in the 40’s, humans haven’t really changed much since then especially in this part of the world. Whenever you want to do something that deviates from the norm, they shame you in all kinds of ways. Some do it because they wonder who you are to dare make such strong proclamations. Others see you as trying to act superior in morals. Some just hate because it’s their default setting especially in issues that pertains to you.

One key moral to learn from this story is this: Hold on to your convictions no matter what. Do not give them up because of societal pressure or because someone is asking you to choose between them and what you believe. Let the only reason you change be because you have gained knowledge that is superior to what you first believed. Always remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

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