No greater love than to give your life for others
During World War I, two soldiers, who were lifelong friends, joined the military together, trained together and served in battle together.
One day, one of the soldier’s saw his lifelong friend wounded on the battlefield. The soldier, caught in a trench with gunfire whizzing over his head, asked his lieutenant if he could go out into the “no man’s land” to bring his fallen comrade back.
“You can go,” said the lieutenant, “but I don’t think it will be worth it. Your friend is probably dead and you may throw your life away.” The lieutenant’s advice didn’t matter, and the soldier went anyway. He managed to reach his friend, hoist him onto his shoulder and bring him back to their company’s trench.
As the two of them tumbled in together to the bottom of the trench, the officer checked the wounded soldier, and then looked at his friend. “I told you it would not be worth it,” he said. “Your friend is dead and you are mortally wounded.”
“It was worth it, though, sir,” said the soldier. “What do you mean, ‘worth it?’” responded the lieutenant. “Your friend is dead.” Yes, sir,” the private answered. “It was worth it. When I got to him, he was still alive and I got to hear him say, “Jim… I knew you’d come.
This story was published in 1990 by Brig. Gen. Herbert Lloyd in an anthology of letters, readings and notes. It reminded me of another World War I soldier, Desmond Doss, whose story was told in the movie, “Hacksaw Ridge.”
Doss was an unlikely American hero. As a conscientious objector, he would not carry a gun; but, rather was assigned as a medic. Often his fellow soldiers could not understand, but Doss did not waver in his beliefs, based on his faith.
Eventually, he was dispatched to Guam in the South Pacific, where the fighting was horrific. Tara Ross tells Desmond Doss’ story through the eyes of fellow soldiers. “’At night, that’s when Desmond done a lot of his work, was at night”’ one soldier later described. ‘He’d go out and crawl around amongst our boys and see if they wasn’t dead he’d take care of them, drag them back. . . . He wasn’t supposed to do it at night.’
“Doss was warned that he could be mistakenly shot by friendly fire if he continued these night-time efforts. He just kept going anyway. Those boys needed his help, and he was there for anyone who was wounded and in need. The actions that earned Doss a Medal of Honor occurred between April 29 and May 21, 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa. Americans were fighting for control of an escarpment known as Hacksaw Ridge, a 400-foot high cliff heavily fortified by the Japanese.”
When Doss got one soldier to safety, he would pray aloud, “Lord, please help me get one more.” Then he ran back into enemy fire. Doss saved at least 75 men during this effort. Both stories remind me of John 15:13, “ Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Lord, help us show others this kind of love.
Jan White is an national award-winning religion columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org