Letters & Stories of Renewed Lives
“Your story resonates with me so much because it is the story of life after hardship, forgiveness after pain, belonging after losing oneself. Whenever I am in a tough situation, I will ask myself, ‘what would Louis do’.” ~ Blaize, 14
“Hearing about your story put things into perspective. EVERYONE matters. Forgiving the Bird helped me realize that no matter the person, they still matter.” ~ Brooke, 15
“As I listened to everything Louis went through; and how much determination, hope, faith, heart, courage, and strength he had to overcome the impossible; something deep inside of me woke up.” ~ Tiffany, disabled athlete.
“Your story should live on and never be forgotten. What you endured and how you overcame it all is truly motivational. The fact that even after all of your struggles you found faith in God inspires me to spread this story. You will forever be an inspiration to everyone who has ever heard about you.” ~ Katy, Age 15
“One of the things I admire most is that you have had more than enough reasons to give up on God and hate Him. It’s humbling to see that he has put your through so much and you still came out to believe in forgiveness. I want to assure you that this book has made a great impact in my life and I want to thank you for giving me a chance of knowing your story”. - “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ forgive you”. Ephesians 4:31-32 ~ Maggie, Age 15
“May I start by saying that every aspect and detail of your story is both inspiring and extraordinary. Your life story is encouraging and honorable in every way possible. Even in the hardest of struggles your resilient optimism stayed strong throughout. Even in the face of misery and fear you held onto who you were and where you came from.
It encourages me to be proud of who I am and where I come from no matter what might lie ahead. I believe your stories are life lessons that can be applied to many different situations. Every moment of your incredible journey is a story worth telling and a lesson worth learning.” ~ Mary, 15
“I often say to myself, if Louis can survive all he did, I can get through my situation. It was his faith and willingness to forgive that I look for, even so ardently, when I fell I’m slipping.” ~ Karen, Ontario, Canada
“I myself am a pretty bad kid, I used to smoke & drink similar to you. Your story gives me hope, not just for myself, but for others who go through similar struggles. ~ Randy, 14
“What inspired me the most was your over powering optimism and your ability to survive through horrible circumstances. I hope that one day I’ll be a little like you, and grow to be just as strong.” ~ Skylar, 14
“Since reading the book about your life and now after everything you went through in the P.O.W, camp you found forgiveness in your heart. You devoted yourself to God and got through many struggles. At church when we are praying to serve God, I now want those words to be the truth when I say it. Thank you Louie. I am thankful for this book. ~ Vanessa, 14
“Your story is one that I can’t help but marvel at! It inspires me to face the issues I’m currently dealing with. It gives me HOPE for the future. Thank you for persevering and continuing to fight. Your legacy and inspiration will never fade”. ~ Lillian, 15
“I think it is amazing how you turned your life around in such a positive way. From being a mischievous kids who always gets in trouble to a KIND teenager and an amazing runner. Your powerful story will be in my mind for the rest of my life. You are truly a blessing from God”. ~ Courtney, 14
“Your life connects to my life in so many ways. When you were a kid you got into mischief and so did I. It shows me that it wasn’t only me that gets into trouble as a kid. It would be easy to overlook a person like you. I’m glad I didn’t. Your life will be honored by everyone. I hope everyone will hear your story.” ~ Justin, 14
“You taught me that with dignity and will that I can overcome any situation life has to throw at me. I was so moved and touched by your story. I think your story could show people the true meaning of pain and glory. ~ Abigail, 15
“This story was truly amazing on how Louie starts as a bad kid to becoming really close to God. The story also inspired me to have more appreciation for other people that have gone through really tough things in their life. I thank Louie so much for his story as it made me view things in a whole different way. Thank you Louie Zamperini.” ~ Mario, 14
I have taken the time to write you because of the book "Unbroken". The story of your father, Mr. Louis Zamperini, has deeply touched my heart in a way beyond what words can express. I feel the need to contact you as you are his son. Louis was an extraordinary person, and what he endured was absolutely incredible. I believe that your father is my hero. I had never actually had a hero until I read Lauren Hillenbrand's book. Though you have no doubt heard this countless times, your father was an incredibly brave man and he deserves your pride. I without hesitation place him among the many important icons of our country. I can't explain the joy that Louis' story brought to me. His faith in God brought me confidence that he will reward according to what we have done. God rewarded Louis. His service to those less fortunate in life whatever it may have been gains my respect. I was once a foster child. I was lucky enough to have been adopted by family. I wish that you and your husband could speak to those in my school as your words are inspirational. I feel that Louis' story would give them reassurance that having faith can get you through the hardest of obstacles. Again, thank you for your time. What you and your organization have done is truly amazing. Thank you, Eddy ~ Age 14
"I truly believe that if I hadn’t heard your father’s story, I wouldn't be where I am today.
Dear Mr. Luke Zamperini,
I hope this finds you doing well. My name is Tiffany. I am 27 years old and from San Antonio, Texas. I am writing to you today to tell you how much your father and his story inspired and changed my life. You see over a year and a half ago I was a very healthy and athletic girl. I was the only female hockey player on an all male team in a all male league. I used to think I was invincible, that I could do anything. That is until the morning of October 3 2013 when I woke up and had no feeling in my legs. I thought I slept in a strange position and that the feeling would soon return, but that wasn’t the case. Over the next three months I was plagued by leg numbness, tingling and such a severe pain that I could no longer do the things that I loved. I was forced to wear metal braces up my legs in order to walk. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong so they tested me for everything from lyme disease to multiple sclerosis. At one point they thought I had bone cancer. Yet no matter how many tests they ran, they all came back negative. Eventually I would be diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, an inflammation of my spinal cord. They said the damage done to my legs could not be restored and that I would be in wheelchair for the rest of my life.
I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that I had walked into the hospital in braces, and was now being told that I had to wheel myself out. I was strong for my family that day, but as soon as they left I broke down. I asked God “Why?”. I prayed to him to help me find some way to get through this. The next day I was transferred to a rehabilitation facility for people with spinal cord injuries. I was to be there for two weeks and work on occupational and physical therapy. I exercised twice a day for three hours. I was gaining upper body and arm strength to help me transfer in and out of my wheelchair, but as far as my legs were concerned I hadn’t made any progress on walking. I watched everyone around me in therapy moving their legs, and I knew that I was trying just as hard, and that I wanted it just as badly as they did but no matter what I did, I just couldn’t do it
My spirit was broken by this point, I had lost all hope. One night I was up late waiting for my medicine to arrive and I turned on the T.V. There was a a story on....The story of your father. As I listened to everything your father went through, and how much determination, hope, faith, heart, courage and strength he had to overcome the impossible, something deep inside of me woke up. I could feel this glow emanating from within me, this glow was something that had been missing all along….it was HOPE, It was believing in the impossible truth that I could overcome this. It was believing in myself, believing that I could walk again. After the documentary I promised myself that I would walk by my Birthday on September 5th. The next few days, when things would get tough, I thought of your Father and was reminded of his perseverance. It made me push myself harder and do more than I did the day before. July 22nd I was released from rehab and that was the day that my perseverance really started. When I got home I began exercising in my room, I would move my legs manually, practice standing up, practice balancing. I fell a lot of times, and had so many bruises and cuts, but I did not give up. For six hours a day, I practiced walking and on September 5th I not only showed my family what I could do, I showed myself.In front of all of my family and friends, I stood up out of my wheelchair and took ten steps. I couldn’t feel my legs, all I could do was watch them shake as they hit the ground underneath. me. My family started to clap and cry, my siblings and cousins cheered as I walk across the floor to my parents open arms. I cried as they held me. In that moment I felt as though I could do anything. Each day I am getting stronger, each day I think of your father and I push myself just that much harder. I am up to twenty steps now and it’s only up from there. I truly believe that if I hadn’t heard your father’s story, I wouldn't be where I am today. Knowing that he went through hell and back, was knocked down, faced with unimaginable obstacles to overcome, and he did it all, he persevered, he believed, he fought, and he survived it all, is truly a remarkable test of will and determination. His story has given me a fighting spirit, your father gave me hope and for that I am so grateful. I just wanted you to know that I think your father was the greatest hero that ever lived, he certainly is mine. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. May God bless you and your family always. Sincerely, Tiffany
Dear Mr. Zamperini, My name is Callie. I’m a twelve year old girl from Massachusetts. Currently I am reading the book Unbroken, about your father. It is the most inspirational thing I have ever read. To know what he had to go through but he never gave up hope. It’s inspiring me so much. The story of your father is making me think there is hope. Your father, is my hero. His story is making such a difference in my life. Just hearing about him is giving me hope and making me stronger. I was looking online and saw he passed away in 2014. I’m so sorry he must have been a great man. I would have loved to meet him and hear the story from him directly. I am going to share the story of your father with my friends and family. If they are going through anything I want them to have the strength his story is giving me. Your father was a great man. He was brave, strong, smart, and fast. I want to be like him when I’m older.
Sincerely, Callie ~ Age 12
Hello Zamperini Family,
I just wanted to let the Zamperini family know how Louie's story is still reaching, motivating, and helping students in Granbury, TX. I read Unbroken about 4 years ago, Louie's story made such an impact on me that I was telling everyone I could that they had to read this book. I even bought extra copies and handed them out to family/friends who I thought would appreciate it as much as I did. I also passed the book onto my daughter, Heather, to read as well. She was as taken with the book as I was! Heather is a 9th grade World Geography teacher in here in Granbury. It's a small town with a lot of children who are being raised by their grandparents because their parents are either in prison or just up and abandoned them. Some of the kids struggle with being in and out of trouble. So I said to Heather that she should find a way to work Unbroken into her lessons each year. To show students that they can overcome whatever they are struggling with in life, to show them courage and bravery, patriotism, and good will towards other human beings. Heather thought is was a terrific idea and so began the "Unbroken" unit every year for the last 4 years!
Heather teaches using a PBL style of teaching. Project Based Learning is a method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. So, many of her units are hands - on and discussion based. Students are always excited to begin the "Unbroken" unit because they hear about it from other students who have been in Heather's class the year before.
Heather reads the entire Unbroken book out loud to the students (the young adult version). When the bell rings for class dismissal the students actually sigh out loud, or say "Noooooo" because they are so enthralled! Heather also uses blue tape on her classroom floor to mark off the exact size of the life raft Louie, Phil, and Mac were stranded in. She marks off different areas around the classroom and then the students take turns, 3 at a time, sitting within the measurements of the blue tape. The students are astounded of the small space each and every time!
Over the years, students have approached Heather saying that Unbroken and Louie have made them want to be a better person. One student, a couple years back, who was really struggling and getting into trouble in and outside of school once wrote a paper in Heather's class that said he will never be anything more than a Taco Bell employee. After the Unbroken unit, he approached Heather and said the book had changed him, that he wants to be better than what he had been and he thanked her for reading the book to the class. She is just finishing up the Unbroken unit for this year and it's as popular as ever with the students! It's not only reaching the young men, but the young girls as well! Heather said several of her girls have approached her saying how they love the book and asked her how did she even know this book existed (haha!).
I felt so compelled to write and let you all know that Louie is still changing lives to this very day! He is such a positive and powerful force here in Granbury, TX in Miss Fuller's World Geography class!
Both, myself, and Heather wish we could have known Louie, he will forever be a part of our lives, I can assure you. ;-)
Kindest regards, Patsy
My mother gave me Unbroken as a Christmas present back in 2010. She was an avid reader and a very good recommender of books. She is eighty-eight now and has moderate/late Alzheimer’s. My father died at age forty-seven so at forty-three mom had to raise eight children, ranging from six to twenty-one, on her own. We were lower-middle class. She had many reasons to be bitter and resentful and initially, for a very brief time, she was. But she persevered. She worked in the cafeteria of a private school so we could have a good education. Then at a church where she helped others for nearly thirty years until she retired at seventy-five. She always was, and still is, a woman of steadfast faith. She is one of the most peaceful and joyous souls I have ever known. Through Laura telling Louie’s story I am able to better understand how she too came to live such a wonderful life.
For some reason Unbroken sat on my nightstand for years. Many other books came and went but this one just seemed to sit there and wait. Finally, in January 2013, I started reading it and eventually made my way to ‘A Beckoning Whistle’.
At that time, and for the years leading up to then, I had been drinking too much and wanted to make some changes. I wasn’t destitute, I was doing well. But I was miserable. When I read of Billy Graham preaching to the crowd, and more specifically to Louie, it was as if he were preaching to me. Through Laura's writing, Louie’s thoughts and actions seemed to be mine put in words. I thought I had an epiphany that night. I thought God had finally listened to me, was giving me what I had asked for and what I so rightly deserved. I selfishly said I would never drink again.
That was short lived. Less than a year later the alcohol gradually made its way back into my life and began to inflict the harm that it does to a person with the dis-ease I was experiencing. On the outside I appeared to be okay. On the inside I was dying. I was killing myself, slowly but surely. This went on for another two years.
On the evening of January 14, 2016, with somewhat clarity, I had enough sense to pick up Unbroken. I went to the bookmark and read Chapter 38. It hit me like a train…
It was a promise thrown at heaven, a promise he had not kept, a promise he had allowed himself to forget until just this instant: If you will save me, I will serve you forever.’
At the instant I read that I realized what I had missed the first time – just how selfish I had been to think that I had persevered through my prison on my own and that my freedom was owed to me. I had forgotten all the many countless times when drunk, or in my deepest pain and misery, I had said out loud to who knows what, ‘God, please help me. If you do, I will do anything for you.’
This time I did have an epiphany. It was clear and simple – I had to do my part. I wept tears of relief accompanied with feelings of joy and peace. I too saw the divine love that had saved me. I had not done it alone. I was no longer worthless and broken – I was a new creation. Since that night, I have not had any desire to drink.
I now live to keep my promise which, simply put, is to help others. Because of Billy Graham, Louie and Laura Hillenbrand - I am a better man. I don’t have my awakening without the writing of this story. I am incredibly grateful for the hard work, dedication and beauty Laura put into Unbroken. This book, this work, is having a remarkably positive ripple effect on the world. ~ Tim
My name is Hanna . I am 19 years old and I live in Tawas City, Michigan. I am contacting you today because, like so many other people, Louis continues to change my life everyday in a way I never truly believed was possible concerning a soul I've never met. But again, I am sure you have heard this before.
I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to help repay that to him. I don't have a lot of money per se being I am a college student, but if there is anything, please let me know. I feel that too many people around this area know nothing about his story or work which makes me sad. I try to spread it where I can, knowing that a life like his can change so many lives for Christ. but if there is anything more I can do, please let me know. Thank you for your time. I appreciate all you do to keep his impact going.
Sincerely yours, Hanna B ~ Age 19
Hello Mr. Zamperini,
Thank you, Luke, for keeping Louis upfront and not forgotten. His message is critically important to young boys and girls struggling to never give up when the waters rise. And they do rise.
I find myself struggling with this email as I feel swelled up with emotion. Your father, Louis, and his determination and resilience has not left me untouched. I read Unbroken in August 2014, having not realized what it was about, who this man was, what affect his story would have on me. From the first word until the book closed, I think about him often and reflect on how I can incorporate his standards into my life.
My father was a WWII veteran, he was a reluctant hero. He practically ran to enlist the day Hitler invaded his native country, Czechoslovakia. He fought the entire war, took home a war bride and lived a quiet life. The atrocities he bore never peaked surface. He couldn't talk about it. He was reluctant to accept praise or thanks for what he deemed was just the right thing to do.
I have two heroes I will forever look up to: my father, Vincent and your father, Louis.
I'm not certain why I find myself writing to you. I never had the chance to meet your father. To encourage him and thank him for the stellar example he is to youths in crisis. Maybe it's because at 94 years of age, this April, my father succumbed to pneumonia and I watched him fight his last battle to live. Or perhaps it's because men like our fathers just don't exist anymore, with them they take a generation of the likes we'll never experience.
Forgive me for taking up your time. I felt compelled, if only selfishly, to speak of the great man your father was. You and your sister of course know this full well, the boys you work with, know this first hand, and friends and loved ones cherish the Louis they knew.
But as for me, a mother of three, living in Ontario, Canada....well, I haven't written a fan letter since I was enthralled with the Jackson 5. However, I am beyond a fan. I have been inspired by Louis' example. I often say to myself, if Louis can survive all he did, I can get through my situation.
It was his faith and willingness to forgive that I look for, ever so ardently, within myself when I feel I'm slipping. I don't know what God has in store for me, I am not sure what I am supposed to do, but I do know one thing: I will grab onto whatever situation I'm in and see the glory of it. I will not look down and allow hopelessness to overcome me.
Louis Zamperini has helped ground me in joy as I seek to "fill my glass" as he did, every day of his blessed life. Karen
Kyle, Louis Final Victory Boy
When you stop and think about the people you most respect in this world, those you truly admire and look up to, whose words match the truth of their hearts~ you realize that you’ve probably known these people for years, maybe even a lifetime. It takes time to build something like that. At present I’ve known the name Louis Zamperini for about 6 months. I met him a single time. And yet I can tell you with all of my heart that I truly love and respect this man.
Six months ago I was about to walk into this beautiful house in the Hollywood Hills, the kind of house that I had only seen in movies.
I was a lost, scared boy who at the time had no sense of hope or direction. Even more dating, I was curious why a rich, old man whom I’d never met wanted to give a lying, cheating junkie like myself thousands of dollars.
See, in my life then I was the know of guy who would steal your wallet and then help you look for it. Few people trusted me. I wanted to change, and I’d been accepted to a school in Australia, a Christian organization called Youth With A Mission. But I was broke and this guy didn’t know about the six other failed attempt of sending me away to get better.
So I was all ears when this offer came along.
The first things I saw in the house were Olympic torches, flags, and pictures of him and famous people. I saw sports gear and WWll gear and felt like I had walked into a museum. I thought, Who the hell is this guy!? He must be hard-core.
That meant I had to step up my game.
I put on the most sober, well-put together, professional face I could and prepared myself for the interrogation I was certain would come. I framed answers in my head (lies) to the expected questions like. “How motivated are you?” “How long have you been clean?” “What are your plans?”
Louis’ daughter-in-law, Lisa, was with me. “Louie, this is Kyle,” she said. “The one going to Australia.”
Louis looked up at me. “Huh? Australia? I love the shopping in Australia.”
My mouth gaped. I sat down as he continued to talk-literally for hours, telling me story after story of sailing through in the Pacific Ocean, of running track, of the strategies he and his gang would use, when he was young, to steal the best pies they could from the local baker. I felt as if I was listening to a kids’ adventure book about the life you dream of living as a child.
But I noticed something even more amazing than the stories-and his life in general: it was the absolute humble heart in every word Louis spoke. It was as if no one that Louis knew, and nothing that had happened in his astounding life, really impressed him as much as they impressed others. He was impressed by something even greater.
I remember looking at a picture of Louis and USC football coach Peter Carroll on the desk. I’ve always been a huge USC Fan. I said, “Louis, you know Peter Carroll?!”
“Oh, yeah,” he said casually. “He keeps calling. He wants me to speak to his team or something.”
He was so nonchalant the I thought that either his age had addled him-Louis ws about to turn ninety-seven-or there was something wildly special about him, something that I had never encountered in anyone else.
When I finally left Louis’s house, I was more confused than when I’d arrived. Not once did he mention the money he was giving me. Not once did he ask any of the questions I’d created ready answers for. For some reason he was willing to trust me. I didn’t know why. My plan walking in was to go to Australia as an escape, a way to get clean, to clear my head, and maybe meet a girl or two. After meeting Louis that plan changed in a way that I couldn’t yet understand. He didn’t just leave me with money. He gave me something bigger through a glimpse of his heart. Now I had to discover what it was.
The school in Australia was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life. I was challenged in ways I didn’t know existed. At times I wasn’t sure I’d make it; sometimes I didn’t want to make it. It seemed easier to quit. I wasn’t afraid of failing. I’d been living with myself for so long, attempting to get better in my own ways, and so often failing, that I was used to it. Now, I was scared of succeeding. I was scared to actually let all the grace and blessing I’d been given change me.
The fear only got worse as I stood before hundreds of people on the beach of Byron Bay, a city with a high incidence of drug abuse, because now I had to make a choice and declare it front of everyone. Fail or succeed? I knew what I desperately wanted.
The moment they raised me from the baptizing waters, the fear was gone. I could finally see for myself the “something” greater, bigger, and special that I had seen in Louis. It was clear why nothing in this world could compare to what was in his heart-because it couldn’t.
No story, no fame, no amount of money, no drug, no drinking, no woman can ever compare to the truth and love that Louis knew and helped reveal to me: of having a true, real relationship with Jesus Christ.
When Louis died all I could do was ask, “God, how can I repay this man, thank this man that was so obedient to you and helped change my life?”
The answer became clear: I would devote my entire life to doing the same work Louis did and let God use me to help the lost people of this world, and to love people when they seemingly don’t deserve to be loved-like Louis did for me.
Hello, Mr. Zamperini I'm Karlis and I'm writing / doing a presentation on your father. I chose your fathers story as the most significant event for a presentation in my history class because I thought it was the most important. I truly admire, and believe that your father was and will always be a hero. His way of confronting everything that happened really got me thinking of life in a much better perspective. Just the way he overcame everything was amazing. It would be an honor to meet you and it would had been amazing to have shaken hands with your father a great hero.