ABOVE: photo courtesy of Joe Epstein Photography
This year the City of Hoboken invited students in grades 5-8 to participate in the 2018 Veterans Day Essay Contest by answering the question “Who is a veteran, past or present, you admire and why?”
This year’s winner is Angelina C. Rodriguez, an 8th Grader at Hoboken Catholic Academy.
Rodriguez read her essay at yesterday’s Hoboken Veterans Day ceremony in Elysian Park, addressing the Mayor, members of City Council, Hudson County dignitaries, and the esteemed members of Hoboken American Legion Post 107.
We are honored to share that essay with you here today, in observance of Veterans Day…
My Favorite Veteran
by Angelina C. Rodriguez
There are a lot of great American veterans who have sacrificed and done so much to protect this country, but this particular veteran caught my attention. His name was Desmond Doss. He was born in February, 1919 and came from humble beginnings. Desmond always had a strong love for his country and his faith as a Seventh Day Adventist. He was drafted into the US Army in April of 1942 to fight in World War II, only a short four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
What is especially different about Desmond Doss is that he refused to kill or carry a weapon into combat because of his own personal and religious belief of not breaking the Sixth Commandment of “Thou shall not kill.” Desmond was known as a “ conscientious objector.” He became an Army medic, and because of his refusal to carry or fire a weapon, he was mocked and threatened with being thrown out of the Army. Desmond was seen as weak and as a liability by the others, including his commanding officers. But Desmond refused to compromise his beliefs or leave his unit.
While serving in the Pacific theatre of World War II, at the Battle of Okinawa at Hacksaw Ridge on May 5, 1945, Desmond’s division came under a terrible counterattack by enemy forces. They were ordered to retreat, but Desmond refused to leave those behind he felt he could help. Amazingly and single-handedly, Desmond went on that night to save the lives of 75 of his fellow soldiers, although it is believed that the number was much higher. Almost all of them were severely injured, which made this a bigger challenge for Desmond himself. One by one, he treated and rescued all of them, praying to God for strength. He went on to do many more courageous things in the following days, serving as a symbol of bravery to those around him.
Among his many medals for his bravery and courage under fire, Desmond received the nation‘s highest award, the Medal of Honor, by President Harry S. Truman. Of the millions of Americans who served in World War II, only 431 were given this important and prestigious award. After suffering with tuberculosis and lung problems over the years, Desmond Doss passed away in March, 2006 at the age of 87.
Desmond Doss is my favorite veteran because I find what he did to be miraculous, and that he is an inspiration to all veterans, past and present. But most importantly, Desmond is an inspiration to me and to all Americans to be brave, selfless, and faithful to one’s convictions. For in the end, that is the true definition of an American veteran.