For 112 years, the childhood home of Desmond T. Doss has stood tall on Garfield Avenue in Lynchburg, blending in well on the city’s presidential streets.
Like many others in the area, the early-1900s built home has two stories, a wooden frame, a modest lot and a front porch.
But this specific house has a story — and it has a new purpose.
The story of Doss has been told many times, perhaps most famously in the award-winning 2016 film “Hacksaw Ridge.” A Lynchburg native and Seventh-Day Adventist, Doss was the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic acts during the Battle of Okinawa.
As an army medic for the 77th Infantry in May 1945, Doss single-handedly saved 75 wounded soldiers by lowering them down a 400-foot-cliff, all while facing enemy fire.
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More than 75 years after the Battle of Okinawa, life has been breathed back into Doss’ childhood home by the Lynchburg Area Veterans Council, which has turned the house into a home for area veterans who have become homeless.
Patrick McAdorey, once a homeless army veteran who now calls Doss’ childhood house home, already shares a special connection to the heroic Army medic. The two both trained at Fort Jackson, Doss in 1942 and McAdorey in 2006.
McAdorey said learning about Doss was “part of the curriculum” at Fort Jackson.
“For me to do the things I did there, versus him having the courage to actually never pick up a gun, that’s a big difference,” McAdorey said.
McAdorey remembered the feeling he had when he first moved into the Doss home around Christmas 2021.
“I felt unworthy to even step in the doorway. And I even still do every day,” McAdorey said.
McAdorey is one of two veterans living in the house currently, along with James Mitchell, an Army veteran who didn’t even know who LAVC president Thomas Current was when Current called Mitchell about moving in.
“He just called me out of the blue,” Mitchell said about Current. “I didn’t know him from Adam, and next thing you know we’re talking about this program, and I was like, ‘Heck yeah, if I’ve got somewhere to lay my head down, sure.’ So we went out and had a breakfast and he handed me the key on the way back.”
Current said the council collaborates with Miriam’s House, an area nonprofit that works to eradicate homelessness, to ensure each veteran is in need of housing.
The council has housed six veterans in Doss’ childhood home since the program started in 2019, including the two currently living there. Current said the home has room to provide housing for three veterans at a time. Veterans live there until they can get back on their feet and have the ability to fully support themselves.
The process started in 2019, when Current and the LAVC found out from a phone call with Desmond Doss Jr., who lives on the West Coast, that Doss’ childhood home was being prepared to be rented out to new tenants.
“One day we got a call ... saying, ‘I think my father’s birthplace is for rent,’ Doss recalled, “and we’re going, ‘You’re kidding me.’”
Current said the council was worried about who would be in the home next, and once they found out who the owner was, they contacted them and said the LAVC would be willing to rent it out. After renting it from the owners for a brief period of time, the LAVC bought the house in April 2020, Current said.
There are several artifacts across Lynchburg that honor Doss, Current said.
There’s a historical highway marker on Campbell Avenue, a portion of U.S. 501 is named after him near Peaksview Park, a school — Desmond T. Doss Christian Academy — bears his name, and there’s a marker about halfway up the Monument Terrace steps.
But Current said Doss Jr. believes the living testimony of his father’s childhood home might be the best way his legacy still is being acknowledged today.
“There’s the marker and the highway, but [Doss Jr.] says ‘this is helping somebody today,’” Current said about the house.
David Stokes, a board member of the LAVC, said the elder Doss, who died in 2006, would be “looking down ... with a smile on his face” today if he knew what the council was doing.
Stokes’ wife, Gail, who plays a big role in looking over the house now, recalled a conversation about the project when they first found out about the house, and how far it’s come since then.
“When we first came to look at the house,” she said, “... Tom [Current] was standing in the kitchen and he had the papers in front of him and he says to me, ‘What do you think?’
“And I told him, ‘I think we just need to step out in faith.’ And that’s what we did.”
All of the furniture in the house has been donated from various sources, Stokes said. Additionally, Current said the group received two grants, one from Pacific Life and another from the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation, to help fix many problems when the group first bought the house.
Both McAdorey and Mitchell expressed gratitude to the LAVC for giving them a fresh start.
“The LAVC can do things ... for you that no one else is even trying to do,” McAdorey said about the help, even beyond just giving him housing, that the council provides for him.
Besides provide housing, the LAVC partners with local business and nonprofits to support the needs of veterans of all ages and backgrounds and helps them connect with available resources. It promotes awareness through the weekly “Support the Troops” rally at Monument Terrace, which has continued well over 1,000 consecutive weeks in Lynchburg.
Mitchell, who said he’s never been “in an environment like this,” said he is “inspired” by living inside the childhood home of Doss.
“I’m just grateful that I’m here. I wouldn’t trade it for this moment because you have fellas like this that are really pressing and out there working for other vets. The [LAVC] board means everything to me,” Mitchell said.
“If it wasn’t for people like this, you would have a lot of veterans out there hurting.”
David Jarrett, who helped establish the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12179 here in Lynchburg — the only VFW post named after Doss — believes the program is just another example of the LAVC’s adoption of the “just save one more” mindset that Doss was famously known for.
“I’ve only been in the area for going on six years now ... I have never seen anything like what the LAVC does for veterans,” Jarrett said.
“I’ve never seen veterans organizations, so many, work together to accomplish something. Amongst other veterans groups ... there’s always been that competitive edge, and that doesn’t exist here.”
With 112 years of history on the property, the current residents and the LAVC are hoping for an even longer story to tell.
McAdorey, who said he works hard to keep the house looking good, admits he still has things he wants to do to make it look better.
“Little by little, I put everything into this place because I love it that much,” McAdorey said with a laugh. “I just want it to stay as good as possible for as long as possible. Give it another 119 years.”
McAdorey gave the house a fitting title from its living room on Monday.
“The past recaptured,” the veteran said.