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Matt Parra on times when the majority is wrong

At basic training, all of Desmond Doss’ fellow soldiers felt like he was a peculiar pest, to the point that they did not want him by their side. It was because he believed in something different, and was willing to stand up for those beliefs.

Desmond would eventually go on to prove them all wrong, in spectacular fashion at the Battle of Okinawa. It was his odd and peculiar beliefs and convictions that motivated Doss to put himself in danger to protect the men in his unit.

It goes to show that the majority is not always right. What seems peculiar, strange or odd might actually be something incredible – something that could change your life for the better.

Cristian Copaceanu on how we can truly forgive

Did you know that Japanese soldiers were among the 75 people Desmond Doss saved during his night on Hacksaw Ridge? These men were his enemies – and had probably put him in grave danger just hours before. Yet Desmond put this behind him and carried these men to safety, where they could be treated by medics.

It can be hard to comprehend how Doss could show such compassion and forgiveness. And yet, with a little help, we can possess the same attitude – one where we easily forgive our enemies and forget how they’ve wronged us.

Cristian believes we can all show forgiveness just like Doss. In this conversation with Nic, he outlines just how we can develop this rare but valuable skill.

For more insight, take a look at our online Study Guides, inspired by the life of Desmond Doss.


Different battles, same Doss

Doss’s actions in Okinawa are deserving of our attention and admiration. Yet the unarmed medic was a hero before he ever stepped foot atop Hacksaw Ridge.

By Linden Chuang.


“Most Medal of Honor winners, they’ll do things in an instant. It’s a decision they make and they do something insanely courageous and heroic,” explains Hacksaw Ridge director Mel Gibson to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“But with [Desmond Doss], it wasn’t an instant. It was over and over again.”

Indeed it was. Seventy-five times, to be exact.

Well, nearly exact. Doss’s commanding officer believed the army medic saved 100 lives over the course of that one night in Okinawa. The ever-humble Doss believed the number to be closer to 50.

Doss’s heroics atop Hacksaw Ridge are deserving of our attention and admiration, but those 50, 75 or 100 rescued soldiers are not what Gibson is referring to when speaking about Doss’s relentlessness.

“He did [it] again and again in the Philippines and Guam.”

It’s an interesting point for the director to bring up, considering he chose to leave out Doss’s first experiences of war from the film (which depicts his regiment heading straight to Okinawa).

In March 1944, Doss and the rest of the 77th Infantry Division shipped out to the island of Guam. From the start the battles were bloody and intense.

“Them boys fired them machines guns and things ‘til the barrels was turning red,” recalls radio operator V L Starling in the Doss documentary The Conscientious Objector.

“It was scary,” says company aid man Daniel Gaudenti. “Really scary.”

The medics had the most to fear on the Guam battlefields, as the Japanese would target them in order to break the morale of the other soldiers. Doss used the cover of darkness as his ally in attending the wounded, even if medics weren’t supposed to head out onto the battlefield during the night.

Starling remembers Doss saying, “Them guys that’s wounded out there I gotta go see about them. That’s my job.”

“If they wasn’t dead he’d take care of them and drag them back,” adds Starling. “I don’t know how he kept from getting shot by the enemy.”

It didn’t take long for stories of Doss’s heroics to circulate. Even Commander Jack Glover, who blatantly told Doss he didn’t want him by his side in war, started to take notice.

Battle after battle, “there was always some story in regards to Desmond T Doss, the medic, who absolutely refused to allow wounded soldiers to not be treated,” said Glover.

One story from the Philippine island of Leyte, where the 77th Division were sent following Guam, saw Doss run 90 metres through machine gunfire to rescue two wounded soldiers. One of the men was already dead when he reached them, but Doss managed to carry the other to safety.

Doss was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his efforts in Guam and the Philippines. He would later receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving the lives of 75 wounded soldiers in Okinawa.

“It was over and over again.”

Gibson is right. They were different battles, but the same Desmond Doss.


Image courtesy of Desmond Doss Council.

Faith and film stars

It’s no secret that actors and actresses can be deeply impacted by the people and characters they portray. So what happens when they’re asked to step into the shoes of someone like Desmond Doss, an inspirational man of conviction?

By Linden Chuang.


Six months before Hacksaw Ridge hit the big screen, another faith-based film was doing the rounds in cinemas in the United States.

Miracles from Heaven, which tells the true story of a mother coming to terms with her daughter’s sickness and miraculous healing, is a far cry from the war epic that is Hacksaw Ridge. Yet the power of this humble Christian film should not go unnoticed.

Hollywood A-lister Jennifer Garner (Daredevil, Dallas Buyers Club), who plays lead character Christy Beam in the movie, credits it for bringing her back to church.

“I grew up going to church every Sunday,” the 43-year-old actress told the Today show. “The thing about this film was it kind of encouraged me to re-engage in just participating—not just believing—actually participating in raising my children so that they have the same background my parents gave my sisters and me.”

It’s no secret that actors and actresses can be deeply impacted by the people and characters they portray. This can be a positive experience, as in Garner’s case, or a negative one, such as we saw with Health Ledger’s accidental drug overdose following his iconic performance as the psychotic Joker in The Dark Knight.

And so we return to Hacksaw Ridge, with British-born actor Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, The Amazing Spider-Man) stepping into the role of war hero Desmond Doss.

The 33-year-old has been lauded for his portrayal of the conscientious objector by film critics as well as Doss’s family and friends. But what sort of impact did the experience have on him personally?

Garfield said he cried the first time he read the script for Hacksaw Ridge. Watch his interviews during the film’s press tour and it’s clear the actor remains in awe of Doss’s story.

“The character was so compelling—it was one of those stories that rang a bell inside me,” confessed Garfield to TIME magazine. “One of the main reasons I was drawn to doing it and to playing him was his awareness of his own ego and humanity, but his faith was the strongest part of him.”

In stepping into Doss’s skin—or “organs” (stomach, gut, heart), as Garfield put it—the actor said he experienced a sense of peace and security beyond what he has felt in his own life.

“I was learning so much about myself through attempting to inhabit the him in myself,” said Garfield. “I was so soothed spending time with Desmond because he managed to transcend or get underneath the pervading cultural attitudes through his faith and become a symbol of, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’; of, ‘I will sacrifice myself for my brother.’”

Let’s be clear: Garfield is not a Christian. He is, however, “very interested in what it is to live a very spiritual life”. Perhaps that’s why he’s following up his time with Doss in Hacksaw Ridge with Silence—another faith-based film in which the actor plays a Jesuit missionary priest suffering through persecution in 17th century Japan.

“This idea of not being able to do these things without help, without some help from something greater than yourself . . . that’s really a beautiful thing to explore,” Garfield told RELEVANT Magazine.

The baby-faced Brit stepped out of Doss’s army boots many months ago, and Hacksaw Ridge is already on its way out of cinemas. Despite this, Garfield is confident the film will stay in the hearts and minds of audiences for some time to come.

“I really believe in this man’s story having the power and potential to send ripples out into the entire world.” [1]


[1] Garfield said this while promoting Hacksaw Ridge during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.


Matt Parra on living a life that matters

If you want to live a life that matters – one that people will remember – then it pays to take a closer look at how Desmond Doss approached life.

Doss had no idea that his actions during World War 2 would inspire people. He never planned to be a hero, and he certainly never sought out recognition – even after his amazing accomplishments. Desmond simply did what he thought was the right thing to do.

Matt Parra explains why we should take the same approach. By simply aiming to do the right thing at the right time, we can make a difference to those around us. Especially if we’re supported by faith.

People might not write a book about you or shoot a Hollywood film that tells your story, but you will lead a meaningful life. And that’ll make you a hero in the eyes of those around you.


This is one of the concepts we explore further in our study guides.

There’s twelve in total that you can take at your own pace, covering a wide range of topics from motivation through to faith.  Take a look now.


Hacksaw Ridge wins nine awards

Hacksaw Ridge has won a total of nine Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) awards, including best film, best director, best lead actor, best supporting actor, best original screenplay, best editing, best sound, best production design and best cinematography. Accepting the award for best director last night, Mel Gibson said he felt “…really honoured and choked up.”

Cristian Copaceanu on God’s role during terrible times

In the movie Hacksaw Ridge, we watch as Desmond Doss puts himself in danger to help his fellow man. He does some incredible things, all against the horrifying backdrop of World War II.

While it’s inspiring to discover Doss’ story, it’s valid to ask – where God was during these awful years?

We could ask the same question for every terrible thing we go through – illness, family problems, and more. Where is God during our most difficult moments?

And this question raises even more. If God is all-powerful, couldn’t he simply solve the problems we face – the small and the large? And if he does intervene, does that mean we don’t really have the power to make our own decisions, whatever the consequences?

Christian and Nic touch on these difficult questions in this short interview. For more insight, take a look at our online Study Guides, inspired by the hero of Hacksaw Ridge.


Desmond Doss: a letter from war

The battle in Okinawa, Japan, began on April 1, 1945. A week earlier, on March 24, Desmond Doss penned the following letter to his mother, Bertha, and father, Tom.


Dear Mother and Dad,

This has been a nice, quiet Sabbath morning in which I have enjoyed making believe I was at home in church. First I took notes of how I thought the church would be if I were there, together with Dot (Dorothy), you know.

After I had my Sabbath school planned I started off with silent prayer, asking God to protect my loved ones back home and to give me a Sabbath day’s blessing. He certainly answered my prayer. I enjoyed my Sabbath school even if I had to take all the parts myself.

For my opening song I selected “Take the Name of Jesus With You.” I paid strict attention to the words. There is a sermon in each song if we really take notice of the words and apply them to ourselves. Then I asked God to continue to bless us all as He has in the past… I continued my service with the song “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”; you know, on the solid rock. There is a lot in this song as well as in the others.

…I am so glad the Lord can use me in His work. I asked Him to help us all do our part and finish giving the message of His soon coming. I thanked Him for using me to help save lives, but asked Him also that it might be His will to let me save some part in saving at least one soul. I know I cannot do anything of myself, but with God all things are possible. I want to be as good a missionary as possible now, so that I can do better work when I get back home.

For the next song I sang, “I Am Thine, O Lord”, and then reviewed the former Sabbath’s lesson, went through today’s lesson, and looked over next week’s lesson. These lessons are wonderful; they are a great encouragement to me. I am not sure that your lessons and memory verses are the same as mine, but Rev. 3:10, 11 is encouraging; also the ninety-first psalm. I got more meaning out of these texts than ever before; they are so appropriate for this time. I believe I got more truth out of them than most people back home. You see, I have witnessed the fulfilment of these inspired words with my own eyes. I know God has more power than all the world put together; so I pray that the Lord’s will and not mine may be done, for God knows what is best and I don’t.

After my prayer I sang “Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us”. Then I thought of how the children in our home Sabbath school used to come in on the last stanza and repeat the memory verse, so I thought I would play their part by reading again God’s promise to me in Rev. 3:10, 11.

I closed with “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”. Then I thanked God for the fine Sabbath morning and the blessing He had given me. I got more out of this Sabbath than usual, though it may not sound like so much as I write it.

I then went for chow and came back and started writing you. I feel my chances of returning home are better than before, but even at that I do not allow myself to get too much confidence, for I know that overconfidence does not pay. If I fail to do my part in protecting life, the Lord will not help me, so I try to do my part and trust the Lord for the rest.

Well I sure will be glad when this war is over and we can come back home and live Christian lives among Christian associates. One thing the Sabbath school lesson brought out that impressed me is that if these experiences in the Army do not make us good Christians, nothing will. If we do not live up to all we know to be right, then we are not Christians. I know that if I do not live up to all the light I have, and if anything happens to me, I am a lost soul. That is why every hour of every day I endeavour to carry out all I know to be right. Life is not sure for anyone, so I try to keep ready for anything that may happen.

I believe that if the Lord wills, I will come through this and return home a much better Christian. This Army experience has made me stand on my own feet for Christ. I can see why the Lord saw best to separate us for a while, for this has brought me a deeper experience. I am so glad Dot is doing her part for the Lord. She will become better rooted and grounded in the faith by teaching this truth… to others. Keep praying for me, because I know God answers prayer.



Image courtesy of Desmond Doss Council.