In this edition we look at the film Hacksaw Ridge. The film tells the amazingly true story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who refused to use a weapon in World War II. Despite this, he single-handedly saved 75 people during the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945. In the film we see a glimpse of Doss' childhood, his journey to become a soldier and his actions in World War II. 

Moral courage is the kind of courage which enables a person to remain firm in the face of contempt and ridicule, rather than depart from what he or she determines is the right course. Values are what matter to us. They are what motivate our behaviour. They ground our judgments about what is good or bad, desirable or undesirable. Empathy is described as the ability to sense other people's emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. 'Cognitive empathy,' sometimes called 'perspective taking,' refers to our ability to identify and understand other people's emotions.

The clip below (best viewed off DPN) depicts an overview of the movie. Allow 5-7 minutes for soldiers to view the clip and then you can either use the questions below to create a discussion or come up with your own questions.

Discussion Points

  1. What is the difference between moral courage and bravery?
  2. When have you demonstrated (or failed to demonstrate) moral courage?
  3. How would have you treated Desmond Doss while going through training? How would you have then felt if he had saved your life at Hackshaw Ridge?
  4. How do you decide what is moral and what is not?


Reflection is an important element of learning. It allows us to consider theories or events, and understand how they might apply to us. One way to conduct reflection is using the 'what, so what, now what' process. In this instance, this process could be used like this:

  • WHAT did I learn from considering this scenario?
  • SO WHAT am I going to do about what I’ve learned?
  • NOW WHAT does that learning mean for my own practice as a military professional?

Other activities

If you enjoyed this activity, why not try the other QMEs available on The Cove?

Concluding Comments

The information in this package is designed to help junior commanders to develop and deliver PME in the unit environment. If you have suggestions for improvements – additional readings or reference material, alternative discussion points, new delivery methods – or if you just want to provide feedback, please contact The Cove Team via