Louis Zamperini began life in Southern California as a troublemaker whose path took a U-turn when he found new challenges in high school and college (USC) where he broke state and world records in long distance racing. At 19, he represented the USA in the 1936 Olympics.
In 1941, Zamperini volunteered for the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier on a B-24 that went down over the Pacific. Fortunately, he was rescued but not until he had drifted on a small raft for forty-seven days. Unfortunately, he was rescued by the Japanese who tortured and abused him in POW camps for two years.
After the war, Zamperini struggled to adjust to civilian life. Driven by revenge, he drank heavily and partied constantly with friends and celebrities who considered him a war hero.
Inspired by a Billy Graham Crusade in 1949, he turned his life around a second time, overcame his anxieties and became an inspirational speaker. Ultimately, he returned to Japan and personally forgave the men who abused him during the war
The story of this extraordinary American legend is told in Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken, which has been adapted for an inspirational movie by the same name opening Christmas Day 2014.
How appropriate that Zamperini’s story of mercy and forgiveness is released on Christmas Day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus who taught us to “forgive those who trespass against us.” As we celebrate the Christmas Season, let us consider a gift of forgiveness, a holy and sacred gift that will ultimately be more meaningful than anything else we might give.