Monday, April 4, 2011

A True American Hero

Does anyone know what a True Hero is? Some people will say a true hero is a famous sports figure. Others might say that it is a famous celebrity.  As a nation I feel that we have lost sight of what a True Hero is and stands for.

As a gift, Joy bought me the book "Unbroken."  Not knowing what it  was about I began reading it. From the preface on I couldn't put it down.  Every chapter was riveting.  The story is about Louis Zamperini, an American soldier in WWII.  Louis started out as a troubled teenager, trying to find his way in the world.  Eventually he would change his life around. He transferred his rebellious energy into running.  He became a regional, national and Olympic champion.  He competed in the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936. He even shook hands with Hitler. World War Two started a few years later and Louis enlisted in the air force, where he became a bombardier on a B-24.  He had many close calls during some fierce fire attacks and bombing raids.  He survived many near death experiences.

During a rescue mission in the pacific ocean Louis' plan crashed. Louis survived along with two other crew members.  They ended up floating in two rescue rafts (each 2x6 feet). For forty-seven days Louie and Russell Allen Phillips would survive; starvation, intense heat, sun burn, shark attacks, the death of the third survivor, dehydration, an attack from a japanese fighter plane and a typhoon. Only to be captured by a Japanese fisherman. Once captured Louie and Phillips would be subjected to some of the harshest POW camp conditions known to any human being.  What Louie endured was beyond anything any human being could probably withstand.  The brutality of a prison guard known as "the bird" was beyond any nightmare.

After two years of intense torture and hard slave labor, the war ended and Louie was free physically. He was never freed emotionally.  After the war, the nightmares and flashbacks of the brutal beatings and the horrific guard "the Bird" consumed his thoughts and dreams.  Louie ended up running to the bottle to escape from his tortured past.

Then one night after much debate with his wife he went to a convention that was in the Los Angeles area. There he heard words that would inspire him to be lifted free of his burdens.  The man speaking was Billy Graham and that night something inside of Louie would change forever.

When Louie was on the raft dying of dehydration, not being a religious man, looked into the sky and asked God for help. He said that "If you help me make it out of here, I will follow you forever."  Then it began to rain and he was able to drink enough water.

The night that he was listening to the words of Billy Graham it began to rain. From that moment on Louie's nightmares faded away and a feeling of forgiveness overcame him.  He was so compelled with his new found faith that he went back to the place where the torture took place and forgave the guards that beat him. Louie continued to teach others of his life events and to share with them his feelings of compassion.  Louie developed a camp for troubled youths. He has told his story to thousands of people all over the world.  At 94 years old, Louie is still inspiring people with his message of faith.

I was so inspired by this great man, that I decided to write him a letter.  I didn't know if he would get it or if he was still alive.  This is the letter I wrote him.

Dear Mr. Zamperini,
I have just read the book “Unbroken” and never has a book me moved so much.  From the moment I started reading until the last page I was in complete awe.  What you endured during the war and in your life was beyond imaginable. To be face to face with death so many times and you are still alive to talk about it is truly amazing.  I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to go through those hellish experiences.  I don’t think people realize what a true hero is.  YOU ARE A TRUE HERO.  You are the definition of a True American.  Your strength and endurance is perhaps the best I have read about. Besides the life and death of Jesus, you endured more than anyone should ever have too. You are truly a blessing and an inspiration. I hope that they make a movie about your experiences. Each chapter of the book could be an epic movie-- incredible feats of human strength and endurance. 
Your message needs to be shared with the world.  I have a tremendous respect for who you are.  Thank you for sharing your story.  God bless you. 
Daryl Conant
45 Portland Road
Kennebunk, Maine 04043
P.S. Mr. Zamperini could you please send me your autograph.  I want to have it framed and put up on my wall along with the book cover.  It would be a great honor...

To my amazement, today April 4th, 2011 I just received a letter from Louie Zamperini. He sent two autographed pictures of himself along with a hand written note thanking me for my letter. He wrote me ending the note "be hardy." Be hardy, he stated, was his trademark. 

I can't tell you how excited I am to have this letter from one of the members of the "greatest generation." These men were the true American heros.  There is nothing that compares to the valor and honor that these men represent.  No sports figure or celebrity will ever match up to these great men and women of World War Two. 

I will cherish this letter from Louie Zamperini the rest of my days on Earth.  He is a true testament to human survival and everlasting compassion. God Bless you Louie.


Tags: Louie Zamperini, Unbroken, The Bird, Watanabe, World War Two, Daryl Conant 

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