R.I.P. Louis Zamperini

We all hope to live lives that are full and interesting.  Louis Zamperini, who died last week at the ripe age of 97, sets a standard to which the rest of us can only aspire.  If you’ve read the best-selling book Unbroken:  A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, about Zamperini’s life, you know what I mean.

Zamperini was a juvenile delinquent, then a champion runner at USC, then a member of the fabled 1936 U.S. Olympic team that competed in Nazi Germany and saw Jesse Owens achieve immortality.  Then Zamperini fought nobly in World War II, was shot down over the Pacific, somehow survived weeks on a raft that floated hundreds of miles before reaching land on a Japanese-occupied island, and then lived through brutal treatment in a prison camp.  His story reads like the over-the-top plot of a movie, but it’s true — and the movie will be released later this year.

Leonard Pitts has written one of many appreciations of this fine man, who exemplified so many of the traits of the Americans known as The Greatest Generation.  A slightly different take on Zamperini’s life, and the role religion played in the “redemption” part of his story, can be found at National Review Online.  You can’t help but be inspired by the story of an average American who did extraordinary things — and you can’t help but wonder how many average Americans, put in the same circumstances, could have done the same.

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