(Image courtesy of http://mtecho.aasdcat.com.)
How fitting that on Memorial Day weekend, my wife and I rented and watched Unbroken, the true, gut-wrenching story of Louis Zamperini.  Wow.  I was amazed at his story.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, be careful reading this article and go watch it for yourself first.  If you have seen it, then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about....

Louis Zamperini, according to the movie, was a
young boy on the verge of living a life worth regretting.  He was smoking, drinking, and stealing as a middle school boy.  His father disciplined him while his mother prayed for him, but it was not until his older brother, Pete, encouraged him to run track that things began to change.  Skinny and small, Louis viewed himself as the scum of the earth which was the reason behind his rebellious behavior.  But Pete believed in him.  To make a long story short, Louis found himself running the mile run in the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.  Jesse Owens won four gold medals and Louis Zamperini finished his last mile lap in just 56 seconds - a world record.

Then came World War II and the boys were off to war, some in Europe and some in the Pacific.  Louis found himself in the Air Force during the bombing raids over Japan.  On one mission in the Pacific, his crew was sent on a search and rescue operation.  On the trip, the plane's engines failed and the plane crashed into the ocean.  Three survived.  Louis was one of them.

On the life raft, they battled starvation, dehydration, and sharks.  It was during their life and death struggle that Louis declared to God that if He saved him, he would devote his life to God.  Sadly, one man died due to the harsh conditions.  After 47 days on the open ocean, Louis and the remaining soldier were rescued - by the Japanese!

Eventually, they found themselves in the hands of a ruthless, Prisoner of War camp commander nicknamed "the Bird."  Louis endured solitary confinement, humiliation, and harsh conditions - to say the least - during his time at the camp.  The Bird enjoyed to humiliate and beat Louis on numerous occasions.  But the mental and spiritual strength Louis carried deep within his soul would not let him die or give in to the torture.

At the most pivotal point in the movie, Louis is commanded to lift and hold a huge, wooden beam above his head.  The stipulations?  He would be shot if he dropped it.  Weak, malnourished, and beyond exhaustion, Louis held the beam above his head, cried out in agony mixed with victory, and looked straight into the Bird's eyes, something he was commanded to never do.  The whole camp stopped their work and watched Louis and the Bird.  The Bird was the one who was now broken.  He unleashed a severe beating on Louis, but he survived.

After spending just over two years in the Japanese prison camps, the Japanese leaders surrendered in 1945, vanquishing Louis and the other Prisoners of War.  And just before the credits, the audience learns that Louis did make good on his promise to God and has served Him faithfully since his release.

By the end of the movie, I was almost in tears.  The man had endured so much!  Yet his spirit was never broken.  What a model for young men to aspire to today.  The toughness to endure, the perseverance through defeat, the strength to get back up, and the boldness to take a stand - these are the qualities I want to leave behind and I want my sons to aspire to someday down the road.

As I bring this article to an end, I want to briefly mention two reflections after watching the movie Unbroken: 1) My generation and the following generations have very little respect for America, and 2) we need more men like Louis Zamperini.

First of all, I have observed over the last decade or so of my life that people my age and younger have very little respect for the American flag.  To start the school day, our high school recites the Pledge of Allegiance.  This is good, for I do not know how many schools that do this anymore.  But what is not good is the majority of students I see firsthand who do not stand at attention, who do not keep quiet (without my reminder), and who look around the room in complete disrespect toward our nation.

I will be the first to say that the current state of our nation does not leave a lot to be proud of in 2015.  We have aborted over 56 million babies since 1973 (Guttmacher Institute), have allowed same-sex marriage to be made legal and accepted in 37 states (ProCon.org), and have allowed 40-50% of marriages to end in divorce (American Psychological Association).  To summarize, the family in America is almost non-existent.  And these statistics are just the tip of the iceberg.

However, as I have told my English classes, I may not be proud of some things going on in our nation today, but I will stand in reverent respect of those who fought bravely, died selflessly, and stood courageously in the face of battle and overwhelming odds to defend the liberties we are still allowed to enjoy today.

Lastly, this movie reinstated a call to my life to pour into young men.  Here's one more statistic for you: about 40% of children grow up without fathers (Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem, David Blankenhorn, 1996).  We need men.  Boys and girls need their fathers.  Louis Zamperini was a man.  I know this not because he was perfect, but because he stood strong in the face of adversity, lead courageously, did not waiver in his faith, and learned the incredible power of forgiveness.

This Memorial Day, remember those who honorably died for your freedom.  Don't take it for granted, as I have regrettably done too many times in the past.  Instead, remember those who are worth remembering... move on from the mistakes of the past... and call upon our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that He may turn His grace toward our sinful, perverse nation and save us.

May your Memorial Day be blessed!

"If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).