Today: Jul 11 , 2020

'He’s Just My Dad!'

05 October 2019   Peter Walter

Last week Prescott played host to two inspiring events having much in common.

Yavapai College hosted “Above and Beyond the Call of Duty” which centered around a special showing of the documentary “Conscientious Objector,” about the life of WWII U.S. Army Corporal Desmond Thomas Doss. Produced by Gabe Videla, the film was a tribute to the courage of Cpl. Doss which resulted in him becoming a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The evening was also a time of honoring many other American heroes made possible by the herculean efforts of Twice Gold Star parents, Jaye Lene and David Long. Master of Ceremonies, Richard Cochran Jr., Vice President of the Hispanic Medal of Honor Society, introduced Videla who shared his very personal sentiments about the person of Desmond Doss and then introduced his 2004 documentary which became the catalyst for the creation of Mel Gibson’s Oscar nominated/winning film “Hacksaw Ridge.” Afterward Videla took questions.

Gabe Videla

Quietly sitting in the audience was Doss’ son, Desmond T. Doss Jr..

Mr. Doss was easy to recognize if you’d seen pictures of his dad. Mr. Doss was also as kind and appreciative as his father had been before he passed away at 87 in 2006. When asked about his father’s many exploits and how it may have impacted his childhood growing up with an American Hero, Doss, chuckled and smiled broadly, “I understand where you’re coming from. So many people come from there, but I don’t think of it that way, see, this is just my dad!” Laughing warmly, he further related how one lady had asked him, “How old were you when you met your father?” As he laughed again I realized this was a man who loved to be around people and enjoyed swapping stories.

It is not customary for a journalist to insert one’s self into their own report, but it is important to note that Desmond T. Mr. Doss made it a point to totally put this writer at ease from then on. I would discover that this was a part of his father’s legacy Mr. Doss fully embraced from childhood. “I hope it’s never lost on people, he was an ordinary guy… but he did some extraordinary things. Some people ask, ‘What made your dad do that?’ Well, nothing made him do it, it’s just who he was.”

During the evening other heroes were noted as well as those still missing or killed in action. Five Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients were also honored; among them, Silvestre Herrera whose son was in attendance. Upon meeting Herrera Jr., Mr. Doss was genuinely touched that their fathers had both received their medals from President Harry Truman. One could see the immediate personal connection between the two. Having met many of the 200 plus Medal recipients, Mr. Doss reflected that what was, “so remarkable about these incredible men; to the very last man they said, ‘Well we were just doing our job’… very humble people. I never heard even one say, ‘Well you know I really did something.’ ”

But Desmond Doss Sr. really did do something. He was the only recipient with the phrase “far above and beyond the call of duty.” The word “Far” was added because he was being considered for two Medals of Honor, but the politics of 1945 considered it a stretch to award one medal to a conscientious objector much less two! So his citation is the only one to read as such.

As the evening closed, Mr. Doss asked if we could discuss his dad further at the Hope Fest three days later that weekend. He had something more he wanted to go on record with concerning the humanity of his father. The interview would continue.

Hope Fest AZ 2019 was a meticulously planned and well attended faith-based outdoor display of church groups, Veteran’s groups, health advisors and much more. Some of the same people organized, spoke, performed and were honored. Primary organizers Jaye Lene and David Long again worked with much of their cast from the prior Wednesday evening gala at Yavapai College.

Jaye Lene and David Long

This time Jeff Senour’s entire band Called to Serve (CTS) rocked the plaza as local residents and visitors from all over enjoyed the near perfect weather in downtown Prescott. Many Arizona ministries reached out to anyone in need. Veteran’s groups and services were on hand to offer assistance to veterans of all ages. In the midst of this cacophony, Mr. Doss continued, as requested, to reveal some of the more important facets to his father’s legacy.

It was not always about the heroics or even Doss Sr.’s religious affiliation with the Seventh Day Adventist Church that his son thought was the essence of his father’s being. “His story transcends all cultures and all ideologies… He spoke about things that were universal to us all. One of the interesting things was that, on Okinawa, and I don’t have to tell you what the hate situation was between the combative sides, but they were finding American bandages on Japanese soldiers and they made it clear he was going to have to stop doing that… but he’d keep doing it because that’s what his heart was.” Even after being admonished by his commanders, who all had great respect for him, evidence revealed that during the time Doss Sr. was lowering some “143 souls” down the escarpment he had continued to help wounded enemy soldiers, sending them down to awaiting soldiers amidst withering fire. “My dad told me point blank, ‘I don’t see uniforms… I saw red blood.’”

Many Prescottonians are thankful for the two great events organized by Jay Lene and David Long with many thanks also going to the volunteers that gave their time to help Veterans and civilians alike this last weekend. Americans are blessed to have such individuals of unshakable faith in their midst. Desmond Doss and his son, Desmond Jr. chose to embody the principals that can unite a fractured society and nations around the world.