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Louis Zamperini's Children on Their "Unbroken" Father

By Chris Carpenter Program Director - NEW YORK -- Louis Zamperini is an American hero and the subject of Angelina Jolie’s highly anticipated film, Unbroken, that opened nationwide in theaters this week.

His story is a remarkable one, highly worthy of being shared with millions on the big screen.  Even though he was a tortured soul early in his life, Zamperini learned to find deeper meaning in the miracles that sustained him.   Louis Zamperini lived life well.

At a recent press event in New York, Zamperini’s children, son Luke Zamperini and daughter Cynthia Garris, shared their memories of a remarkable father, one who was not only dedicated to his family but also loving in every sense of the word.

On what he instilled in each of them as a father …

Luke Zamperini: He was a great dad.  He was just fantastic.  He was there for us for anything that we were going through.  He cooked our meals for us.  He bound our wounds.  He was just loving and supportive.

Cynthia Garris:  He loved to have fun.  He made me laugh all the time.  He loved to pull innocent little pranks.  Our mother had a real cushy life because she got to sleep in every morning.  My father really, really embraced the whole idea of having family and caring for them.  He would be up early every morning.  We would hear the pots and pans clanging in the kitchen.  That would get me up and he would be preparing coffee for him and my mother.   He would like to tease me.  My mom and my brother would sleep a little bit longer.  Like Luke said, he was my hero.  If I coughed in the night it was my dad who would come in and put a lozenge in my mouth and take my temperature.  If you hurt yourself or got into any kind of trouble, he was the best person to get you out of the trouble, or save your life.  He saved me from drowning once.  Obviously, he was really great at first aid due to getting through the war in a prison camp.  Then being on that life raft so long and helping his buddy Phil with his head wound.  My dad could bandage anything.

On what he taught them about faith …

Luke Zamperini: Billy Graham meant a whole lot to my dad because it was when he met Billy and heard him speak that his life really changed for the better.  Billy introduced my father to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  That is what turned my father’s life around finally and completely.  My father’s life then became a life of service and turned him into the happy, joyful person he was after suffering through PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after World War II.  Obviously, I picked up on that.  My father’s faith was very much a factor in my coming to faith in Jesus Christ. 

Cynthia Garris: My father was such a wonderful example to me when I was a child.  I became a Christian as a child just by listening to his stories and asking him questions about the Bible.  He never forced us to go to Sunday school.  He never shoved his faith down our throats.  He just inspired us with his faith to be people of faith.  He just stayed so true to his faith – unwavering until the moment he died and went to Glory.  At times, I just envied how he looked back on his whole life and see the hand of God everywhere, saving him.  He almost died at least 100 times in his life starting from being two and a half years old and contracting pneumonia.  He had fallen into an oil tank.  You can’t swim in oil and somehow he was miraculously saved from that.  And just the miracles that happened on the life raft you see in the movie, with the bullets, and the miracle of being freed from underwater after being tangled.  He could so clearly look back and see that he was saved every single time for a purpose.  His life had a very clear purpose and meaning.

On their reaction to finally seeing their father’s story on the big screen after nearly 60 years in development …

Cynthia Garris: We are over the moon happy with the film.  We are thrilled with who was finally chosen to direct it (Angelina Jolie) and the job that she did.  We knew as children something of the initial film idea that never came to fruition.  Then it just kind of vanished.  We played with our toys and grew up.  We have lived our lives and then the whole question of doing a movie began to be raised again.  We were very hopeful.

Luke Zamperini: I absolutely love the film.  I have been waiting my entire life to see it on the big screen.  I’m someone who believes that things happen for a reason and that they happen when they happen for a purpose.  And although I could never figure out why it wasn’t a film as I was growing up, I’m just so thrilled that it is a film today.  It is the right team that put it together, the right studio, the right director, the right actors, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

On whether the movie Unbroken is successful in conveying who Louis Zamperini really was …

Luke Zamperini: Well, I believe that to tell every aspect of my father’s life would take about nine hours in a movie.  In the time allotted, it was a very good job done to show his determination in doing anything.  As he got into sports he became a fanatic about running.  That is why he was able to set the kind of records that he set.  He didn’t just run for the glory.  He ran because he loved to do it.  He ran everywhere.  He ran to the beach.  He ran to the market.  He ran all the time.  I think that gave him the ability to become the world-class athlete that he was.  And being an athlete, every challenge he faced in life was an excuse to train.  He was never afraid to face any kind of challenge.  He never panicked when he was confronted with any kind of danger.  He just figured out a way to get through and how to survive.  And I believe the film was able to bring that part of his character across.

Unbroken is currently playing in movie theaters nationwide.  Please check your local listings for viewing times in your area.

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