We all have defining moments in life that make or break us and show the world what we’re made of. The going gets tough and we are forced to make decisions. They can be grand or small, but they define who we are and what we stand for.
Many of us will never know what it is like to be lost at sea for 47 days with sharks patiently circling around a deflating life raft, knowing that it’s only a matter of time; or survive the brutal tortures of 30 months as a prisoner of war.
If we were subjected to such hardships, how would we react? Would we lose hope or be resilient enough to survive?
For Louis Zamperini, hope was the only option.
Zamperini’s story of survival, resilience and redemption offers each and every one of us an opportunity to examine the way we deal with everyday challenges and the moments that define us.
Dec. 10, Zamperini and his inspirational story come to Edwards for Wingman Day.
Now 95 years old, Zamperini will detail the remarkable story about how he transformed from a mischievous child into an Olympic athlete and survived a horrific accident while flying as a bombardier in a B-24 during WWII. He will share his struggles and his victories as he survived being lost at sea and being held captive by the Japanese.
“We talk about the four pillars of resilience: emotional, physical, social and spiritual. This is an aviator who is a phenomenal example of all those pillars; how he made it through and how he helped his fellow soldiers and aviators survive. He is not a man who has lived in bitterness since WWII, but he has been a great inspiration to a number of people, including his former captors,” said Col. Dan Daetz, 412th Test Wing vice commander.
The New York Times bestseller, “Unbroken,” written by Laura Hillenbrand, details Zamperini’s remarkable story. It is available at the Base Exchange or at the Base Library. All are highly encouraged to familiarize themselves with his story before he speaks to Team Edwards on Wingman Day.
While questions will not be taken from the audience, all are encouraged to submit questions in advance to the 412th TW Public Affairs Office at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than Dec. 5.
The speaking engagement is a resilience training event for base military and civilian personnel and will not be open to the public. However, all base personnel will have an opportunity to welcome Zamperini to Edwards and hear his recorded remarks. Tickets will be available through unit representatives. More information will become available.
“What I get out of his story is someone who lived with hope. Even in the darkest times he never gave up on being rescued and liberated; he never gave up against alcoholism or forgiving his captors. He found hope to deal with stresses we can’t even imagine,” said Daetz.
Zamperini’s heroic story can help inspire us to endure the challenges of life with resolute hope.
“The story of this hero gives us a way to orient our perspectives, learning from someone who has managed to take a very difficult circumstance, flip it on its head and choose not to subscribe to a victim mentality,” said Daetz. “With circumstances as difficult as they were, Mr. Zamperini never thought of himself as a victim – he decided he was going to hold on and push through.”