Retired GBIM missionary Roy Snyder (left), a World War II vet, was able to meet with American war hero and Olympian champion runner Louie Zamperini (center, with hat) Wednesdaywhen Zamperini spoke for the Grace College chapel in Winona Lake, Indiana.
Snyder says this photo represents “the past and the present” as the two young people to the right are current high-achieving runners for Warsaw (IN) High School. The young man, Snyder says, is “Jake Poyner, son of Tim and Sue. Jake is top distance runner for Warsaw High.”
Zamperini, 94, is the subject of the book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, written by “Seabiscuit” author Laura Hillenbrand.
Zamperini was an Olympic runner in 1936. He joined the Army Air Corps as a bombardier during WWII where he crashed in the Pacific Ocean and was picked up by the Japanese, who took him as a Prisoner of War.
After two harrowing years in the camp, he was freed when the war ended and returned home to California, where he got married. But he was directionless and bitter about his war experiences, which led to too much drinking and his life spiraled out of control.
He was consumed with the idea of returning to Japan to get revenge on the Japanese sergeant – whom the prisoners referred as “The Bird” – who inflicted so much pain on him. But in 1949, Zamperini’s wife asked him to go see Billy Graham preach. He did so and the Gospel grabbed his heart and made him new.
Grace College students were encouraged to read the book over the summer months and this fall were privileged to hear Zamperini speak in chapel, as well as in classes. After the chapel address, he invited all military veterans to the platform to have their photo taken with him. (photo courtesy of Roy Snyder)