"Please, Lord, help me get one more. Help me get one more."
This was the prayer of World War II Army medic Pfc. Desmond Doss as he risked his life time and time again to rescue 75 wounded men on the bloody battlefield of Hacksaw Ridge.
Anyone who has seen the inspiring movie about Pfc. Doss' valor understands the absolute selflessness of the young medic who boldly entered hellish conditions in order to save lives. You can't be human and not feel a sense of awe at such personal sacrifice and commitment by a soldier following his calling in the face of incredible personal risk. Certainly, Desmond Doss is a hero for the ages.
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Today, as the deadly coronavirus sweeps through the nation and world, our current heroes are the men and women laboring in our health care centers, nursing homes and hospitals. They will never receive Purple Hearts or other medals for their bravery and sacrifices. Yet many will fall ill, suffer and even die in the line of duty.
While healthy Americans complain as we self-quarantine in the comfort of our homes to protect ourselves from the virus, doctors, nurses, lab workers and medical technicians boldly place themselves in danger in their compassionate service to the ailing. They willingly leave the safety of their homes to create a place of refuge and healing for people they don't even know.
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America's health professionals are the brave soldiers on the front lines of a cruel illness that threatens our lives, our liberty and our livelihoods. They are our domestic heroes, every bit at risk as the medic on the battlefield, and they deserve our thanks and daily prayers.
As the virus continues its death march around the world, doctors and nurses are falling ill in greater numbers. With masks, gowns and gloves in short supply, they continue to serve. Even though they worry that they may be placing their own families at risk, still they serve. Through long hours, late nights and in dire circumstances, they serve. In clouds of germs and as fevers rage, they tenderly touch and comfort the hurting. They are there for us, and we must be there for them too.
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My father was a gentle pediatrician who was committed to his little patients and their families. He worked late nights, gave up his one day off each week to serve in a kidney clinic for impoverished children and braved infectious diseases.
One day, as a very young child, I heard what sounded like a deep, soulful mourning coming from my parents' bedroom. The door was ajar, so I tiptoed down the hall and peeked in. I will never forget the sight of my daddy on his knees beside his bed, weeping and fervently praying for a very sick little boy. The power of that moment shaped my own faith in God and gave me a new appreciation for my precious father, who gladly bore his patients' burdens as his own.
In the "Every Moment Holy" book of liturgies, there is a beautiful prayer my dad might have said. As a tribute to all who put themselves in harm's way to keep us healthy, heal us when we are sick, tend to our wounds and comfort us when we are suffering, I offer a portion of this prayer so that it might be yours when you seek strength:
"Let me practice medicine because you are a healing God who feels compassion and extends mercy. Let me practice medicine because you are near to those who are in need, to those who face grief and loss. Let me practice medicine as a willing servant of your redemption, pushing back – by means of my vocation – the effects of the fall. Let my presence in this place lend a human face to your compassion."
To everyone in the medical profession, thank you for being our heroes. May God protect and bless you for the tremendous blessing you are to others.