Shortly after I got my book deal it was important that I found more WWII veterans with varying backgrounds to represent each war experience as best I could. It was important I found a POW to photograph and interview. I was introduced to Louie Zamperini and got to photograph him at his Hollywood Hills home. Walking into Louie Zamperini's home was like walking into a museum as there were five Olympic torches sitting on the mantle he had carried, in his closet were WWII relics such as the Nazi flag he is holding in the photo above he stole from the Reich Chancellery during the 1936 Olympics in which he competed, and many other artifacts. Zamperini was a walking war relic himself.
While Zamperini's photograph and shorter version of his story is in my book, I did not read Unbroken until a trip my wife and I took to Peru earlier this year as I thought I knew his story well. Louie Zameprini's plane crashed landed on the ocean and one was one of three survivors, was captured by the Japanese and became a POW, he survived the harsh conditions of the camps, and then overcame alcoholism after returning to the United States, and then became a positive community figure. The struggles he overcame before, during, and almost more importantly after the war, helped put my life into even greater perspective. Not that my own struggles are not important, but it made me feel like I can overcome challenges and not have to be stressed.
Shortly after I finished Unbroken, I was surfing in Lima, Peru (and was rusty from not surfing in a long while) and I began to loose my balance and feared of falling into the rocky reef. But, then I thought of Zamperini and what he was able to accomplish. I maintained my balance and rode my wave into the shore.