A pale blue sky laid its canopy over the field blanketed mountain, as I approached a special place in Rising Fawn, Georgia. I had hiked down to the waterfall at Cloudland Canyon another time, without knowing the area was the home of a remarkable hero. When I did know, it was arranged for me to meet the man known then more by word of mouth than any prominent fame.

I was a little nervous. Congressional Medal of Honor recipients are a rare breed, which makes meeting one a rare honor. As soon as you are in their presence, any nervousness melts away in the warmth of your welcome. Stepping into the home of Desmond and Dorothy Doss was like visiting grandparents you’d never met. Complete with cookies and a cool drink.

As is usually the case with true heroes, Desmond Doss was a humble man. Exuding kindness, he offered a handshake and a sweet smile that in no way diminished his reputation as the
hero of Hacksaw Ridge. I can understand why he met his admiring public by appointment. Being prepared insured the experience would in no way disappoint those who made a special trip to meet him and shake his hand. I think, perhaps, it also gave him time to breathe and ready himself for the inevitable trip back in time that visitors would set him off on.

There was the matter of his cochlear implant, as well. It was explained that facing him directly to speak would help the marvelous technology to pick up sound and help him hear. It was a bit disconcerting for me and probably less than comfortable for him, but he made no complaints, just praise for the device.

He gave a sort of informal presentation and answered questions, with dignity and grace and the far off look in his eye that is so common among the WWII veterans who are able to share their stories. Being in his presence was a quiet, sobering, unforgettable experience. One that I’ll never forget. I’m glad to be able to remember it once again and share it on this Veteran’s Day.