'Unbroken' WWII vet talk to high schoolers

April 3, 2012 3:28:21 PM PDT
Ninety-five years is a long time to live, especially if your name is Louis Zamperini. He is the man whose story of survival is the subject of the best-selling book Unbroken.

Tuesday, Zamperini spoke to students at Barrington High School and ABC 7's Frank Mathie was there.

Zamperini, who was raised in California and still lives there, is 95 years old now, and he tours the country speaking and telling his story. It is a miracle story of a young teenage criminal who then became a great runner in high school and was the youngest American in the 1936 Olympics. But along came the war and a bomber crash at sea and 47 days on a life raft, then almost daily beatings in a Japanese POW camp.

But somehow he survived it all.

"Well, it's been my life since I was kid," said Zamperini. "All these near-death experiences, and I never could figure out why have I escaped this, and why have I escaped that. It just blew my mind."

It is a story so mind-blowing a best-selling book called Unbroken was written about his life. Survival is the theme and it has now inspired countless others to never give up.

"A nurse called me, and said, 'This guy has been on dialysis so long he wanted to die, and then he read your book, and he said, If that guy can spend 47 days on a raft, I can finish my dialysis.' We get letters like that all the time, so the book is really therapeutic," said Zamperini.

Zamperini survived the war but he almost didn't survive alcohol. His life and marriage were on the rocks, but then he says he found Christ and learned to forgive everyone, including those guards who tortured him.

The life of Louis Zamperini. It sounds like unbelievable fiction, but it is absolutely true, from tough beginnings to the age of 95. Now he lectures about his life and he especially likes to talk to students.

"My message is, the old boy scout motto, be prepared. Ah, study hard, set a goal, don't give up until you reach that goal."

His life now is filled with applause for telling us, no matter how tough life is, just keep going forward to your goal.