Mark Alexander / Nov. 4, 2016

Valor Above and Beyond — Best Film of the Year!

Hacksaw Ridge will introduce those of all ages to a genuine hero and American Patriot.

Last week, I had the privilege of being present for a small but distinguished gathering of veterans at the National World War II Museum. We joined film director Mel Gibson and the actors, for a preview of an extraordinary film, Hacksaw Ridge. A month ago I wrote a column on the subject of this film entitled “The Most Unlikely Hero — Desmond Doss,” who was one of our East Tennessee mountain neighbors. As a National Advisory Board Member of the Medal of Honor Heritage Center in Chattanooga, hallowed ground of The First Medals ever awarded, our staff escorted Desmond’s original Medal of Honor for display at the preview.

Desmond Doss was a Patriot whose character reflects the essential spirit of American greatness. His Medal of Honor citation reads like fiction, but his heroic actions over 22 days are well documented. In my humble opinion (though he would never have accepted such praise), Desmond’s citation is among the most awe-inspiring of all 3,514 Medals awarded since its inception.

While the film captures the bulk of Desmond’s actions atop Hacksaw Ridge, it notably excluded one incident. At the end of the film, as was the case in reality when Doss ascended the ridge again after his heroic actions, then with his entire unit, he was wounded and his leg badly fractured. As four other men were taking him on a litter to the edge of the precipice to lower him to safety, which he had previously done on his own for more than 75 wounded Americans, one of the men carrying his litter was shot by a Japanese sniper. The litter was dropped to the ground and Doss rolled off. When the other three men attempted to put him back on the litter, he refused and insisted they take the wounded litter bearer: “He needs help more than I do.” Doss then strapped a rifle to his leg as a splint, and crawled to the edge of the Hacksaw Ridge precipice where he was lowered.

In conversation after the film with Gibson, I asserted that he chose to omit that from the final scene because, after all else Doss had done, nobody would have believed it – instead it would have come across as Hollywood hyperbole. Mel confirmed that is precisely why they omitted that from the movie.

It took 70 years to bring Desmond’s story to the big screen, primarily because of his concern that Hollywood would give the glory to him rather than God. This Gibson film gives God the glory! I should note that it is violent, but not gratuitously violent. Instead, the violence elevates your understanding of the God-inspired heroism of this heroic conscientious objector. I highly recommend you see this film, but with the caveat that, for some, it may be too visceral. (As we have a young Marine in our family, my wife opted not to see the film.)

Hacksaw Ridge will introduce millennials, and those of all ages, to the reality of a genuine hero and American Patriot.

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