If you think you’ve had your fair share of resiliency training, I understand, but I urge you to continue reading and take this article as a book review. My hope is that after you’ve read my message, it will convince you to go to the base library to check out a copy of “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand.
Is there a true “perfect” holiday season? I doubt it. There are always added stressors. Last year I was in Korea without my family, and things were far from perfect. My family wasn’t happy I was gone.
I skyped with my family during the opening of presents on Christmas morning while my wife was dealing with her in-laws. However, I was very thankful for the support given to my family and me and the support shared between other Airmen who were also separated from their families. I realized that our military family has a rich history of resiliency grounded in a common understanding of our heritage.
We stand together with a shared sense of service and selflessness. Our bonds with each other and our families provide us with strength and resources far beyond what nonmilitary families may have. Simply stated, we produce resiliency to charge through adversity.
I didn’t realize there was more to the title of Hillenbrand’s book than just the word unbroken. The full title is “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.” Clearly if the word resilience is in the title, the stories from the book should relate to some sort of resiliency.
But, without giving away all that happens in it, I’ll tell you about Lt. Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who became a B-24 bombardier in the Pacific during World War II. After his B-24 broke apart in midair, he found himself floating in the Pacific Ocean fending off sharks. Soon thereafter, Zamperini became a prisoner of war and faced years of torment by his Japanese captors.
It’s not difficult to relate being a POW and needing resiliency. In one section of the book, Hillenbrand compares the dignity and resiliency that Zamperini and two other POWs maintained. Their names were Phil and Mac. As stated in the book, “Though all three men faced the same hardship, their differing perceptions of it appeared to be shaping their fates. Louie’s and Phil’s hope displaced their fear and inspired them to work toward their survival, and each success renewed their physical and emotional vigor. Mac’s resignation seemed to paralyze him, and the less he participated in the efforts to survive, the more he slipped. Though he did the least as the days passed, it was he who faded the most. Louie’s and Phil’s optimism and Mac’s hopelessness were becoming self-fulfilling.”
We all have difficulties in life, but how we perceive that adversity is the important thing. Just like Zamperini and the other POWs who reintegrated successfully after the war, we must fight through adversity and find the moral courage to know that someday, somehow, things can and will get better.
Zamperini needed considerable support. In fact, he almost didn’t make it. Like him, we shouldn’t hesitate to lean on our support networks like family, friends, co-workers, supervisors, support agencies or religious communities to get through tough times. Don’t let “The Bird” bring you down. Read the book and you’ll know what I mean.