Col. Tom Current: ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’

by | Jun 2024

WHEN WE hear someone reminisce about “the greatest generation,” we inevitably know they are referring to the men and women who bravely fought in World War II. While Tennessee rightfully boasts of the heroism of Sgt. Alvin C. York during World War I, the story of Lynchburg native Desmond T. Doss gives cause for the entire Commonwealth of Virginia to overflow with national pride because of Doss’ unparalleled bravery. 

Like York, Doss also held deeply religious views and chose to go into combat without a weapon. After facing backlash from fellow soldiers, Doss emerged as a national hero during the Battle of Okinawa when he saved the lives of close to 100 of his fellow infantrymen in an area known as the 96th Infantry Division or “Hacksaw Ridge.” 

Although he suffered a fracture to his left arm and had 17 pieces of shrapnel lodged throughout his body, for five grueling hours, Doss lugged his fellow “brothers” across his scrawny shoulders amid heavy enemy fire whirling all around them. Even though, for Doss, who was a Seventh-day Adventist, it was his Sabbath, or “day of rest.” Doss ran headlong into battle that Saturday, praying, “Lord, give me one more,” before each rescue. For many veterans, the poignant words of the 1969 hit song “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” made popular by The Hollies, sums up this sacrificial love.

On Oct. 12, 1945, President Harry Truman awarded Doss a Medal of Honor, a Bronze Star for valor, and a Purple Heart medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters — the equivalent of three Purple Heart medals. He received several other medals for conduct and bravery. Doss died March 23, 2006, at the age of 87 and is buried at the Chattanooga National Cemetery in Tennessee.

Ten years after his death, the 2016 Academy Award-winning film “Hacksaw Ridge” brought a broader audience to the bravery of Doss. In 2019, through the unwavering leadership of retired Col. Tom Current, the Lynchburg Area Veterans Council (LAVC) was able to purchase the birthplace and childhood home of Doss at 1309 Garfield Ave. The building now provides housing for homeless veterans.

Current has been practicing law in Lynchburg for 35 years and in other states since 1983. After graduating from Purdue University with an engineering degree and as a distinguished military graduate in Army ROTC, he served in the U.S. Army for 30 years. In 2003, he retired at the rank of colonel. He was a combat engineer, served two tours with the U.S. Army Special Forces, and was a ranger and a master parachutist. The highest position held by Current was the chief of staff, 80th Infantry Division, at the U.S. Army headquarters in Richmond.

“LAVC is a 501(c)(3) publicly supported charity that helps our most needy veterans in Lynchburg and the surrounding contiguous counties,” said Current. “We help with every need imaginable, especially with veteran homelessness. We are a volunteer partner with the Central Virginia Continuum of Care, comprised of several agencies and nonprofits that meet weekly to tackle the homelessness issue — to include veterans.”

In 2019, the city of Lynchburg designated Oct.12 as “Desmond T. Doss Day,” commemorating the date President Truman awarded Doss with his medals. The LAVC recently paid tribute to Desmond T. Doss Day by planting trees at the Blackwater Creek Trail Extension at Linkhorne Middle School in memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Global War on Terrorism. Desmond T. Doss Jr. was the guest speaker.

“These fallen heroes we planted trees for were from the Lynchburg area — or were assigned to military units in the area — that were deployed to fight in the war. One of the men killed in action, Cpl. Michael Fulcher, was from Madison Heights. His three sisters attended the dedication. Fulcher was killed in the Beirut, Lebanon, Marine barracks bombing in 1983, 40 years ago. His sisters said, ‘We didn’t think anyone cared.’ After the dedication ceremony, they said, ‘Now we know somebody cares.’”

Although few remain of our greatest generation, the road has indeed proven to be long, with many a winding turn, so new generations have stepped in to answer the call ringing for freedom. As you walk along the Blackwater Creek Trail, reflect at Monument Terrace, visit the home of Desmond T. Doss, or volunteer at the LAVC, may you never forget the unparalleled sacrifice made by our American soldiers. GN

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