Louis Zamperini was born in 1917 to Italian immigrants.
He excelled in track, setting the high school record for the mile in 1934 with a time of 4 minutes, 21.4 seconds.
Louis ran the 5,000 meter event in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Although he did not receive a medal, he did stand within spitting distance of Adolf Hitler.
He trained for the 1940 Olympics, which were canceled due to World War II.
Louis enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier.
In May 1943, Louis and 11 airmen went out in their bomber to look for a plane that had been shot down.
Their own plane was shot down. Louis and 2 other airmen survived.
They had a life raft and a scant amount of food.
Louis survived 47 days out in the ocean. That’s a month and a half.
In Louis’s biography, Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand goes into harrowing detail of Louis’s life on the lifeboat. One of his boatmates ate all of the food.
Louis and the other survivor had to fend off sharks and kill birds with their own hands in order to have something to eat.
Their reward for surviving those six weeks out on the boat was to land on an island where they were quickly captured by Japanese soldiers.
Louis and his friend then spent more than two years in a Japanese internment camp.
They were finally rescued shortly before the end of the war.
Louis returned to the U.S. where he struggled with alcoholism.
The book details the extensive measures Louis took in order to forgive his captors.
On this Independence Day, let me say that you will never read a tale of heroism, sacrifice, love of country and dedication to his fellow Americans than Unbroken.
The accounts of his time on the boat and in the internment camp continue to haunt me.
When I think my own life is difficult, I just think of Louis.
God bless Louis Zamperini and all of his fellow American heroes – our U.S. military.