Louis Zamperini, a World War II prisoner of war and 1936 Olympic hero spoke at JSerra Catholic High School as this years first Distinguished Speaker. During the summer JSerra students read Unbroken, a book written by Laura Hillenbrand detailing the Veteran’s inspiring story, making Zamperini’s visit to the school a once in a lifetime experience.
Students, parents, Veterans, and residents from the neighboring community filled the Pavilion to hear Zamperini speak on some of his life changing experiences.
He explained how he credits his faith in God for his life journey walking the audience through the ups and downs he experienced as an American war hero during WWII and the nightmares of POW camps that haunted him for years.
“God had a purpose for me,” Zamperini said, stressing that the book and spreading his story was a big part of his calling.
Specially selected JSerra students participated in a Q&A segment during his visit.
When asked if retelling his story causes him to relive frightening memories, Zamperini replied that retelling his story is “the best thing to happen.”
“The more you talk about it, the less it bothers you,” he said. “If talking helps other people, do it. Tell your story,” Zamperini emphasized to the crowd.
His son Luke Zamperini accompanies his father to most of his public appearances,
giving him the opportunity to see how his father’s speaking engagements has not only touched others, but has also helped his father.
“He is 95 years old and he can’t wait to get on stage,” Luke Zamperini said.
His father’s accounts of his struggle as a POW fighting for his life were Luke’s bedtime stories growing up. Now he has the pleasure of seeing the effects of lives changed by those same stories that touched him as a young boy.
“It’s so important to talk about your story,” he said.
A feature film based on the book, Unbroken is currently in the works. The Zamperini’s say the film is in the pre-production phase with Universal.