The story of Olympic runner turned prisoner of war Louis Zamperini is inspiring, but there were just so many things that happened in his life that did not fit into Unbroken, the two-hour motion picture based on his life. Now his son Luke is sharing the details of his faith that failed to make the cut.
"The film was faithful to mention the faith of my father, although briefly," Luke told The Gospel Herald.
He said that in the life-raft scene, his father was shown praying to God, "Take me home alive and I will seek You and serve You my entire life."
And at the end of the film, there is a tile that says, "Louis made good on his promise to serve God and went back and forgave all of his captors." But Luke said so many things happened in between that moment of prayer and the time he went back home.
"After the Japanese picked my dad up out of the ocean, they kept him 27 months in a prison camp. Their intention was to keep him away for a year and then try to use him for propaganda purposes," he shared.
Zamperini was brought to Tokyo and the Japanese forced him to read some propaganda, but he refused. He was sent back to prison camp, where a guard known as "The Bird" tried to break Zamperini by beating him.
Things got so bad for Zamperini that he "began to have nightmares about The Bird attacking him; he would dream that The Bird was hitting him with a kendo stick, or with his belt."
Even when he came home to the United States, the nightmares hounded him. "He had what we know today to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but they didn't know what that was back then, and they didn't know how to treat it," said Luke.
It was not easy for Zamperini to get his life back in order, find a job, and stay true to his faith. Because of his nightmares, he would self-medicate with alcohol and he began picking random fights with people. His wife even threatened him with divorce, until they met a young preacher - Billy Graham.
His wife had a change of heart after hearing Graham's sermon, and decided to stick it out with Zamperini. He, however, still struggled with his faith. When Graham began talking about sin, Zamperini grabbed his wife and walked out of the tent of worship.
Zamperini and his wife would come back again and again to hear Graham preach because of her insistence, but he would repeatedly walk away when Graham tackled sin. Until one day, Zamperini heard Graham say that people turn to God when they are at the end of their ropes and have nowhere else to turn to.
Zamperini was immediately reminded of the promise he made to God on the raft. "I felt so awful, because I knew that God had taken care of His part of the bargain, but Louis Zamperini had not," he told his son Luke.
After that moment, Zamperini turned his life around. He began praying in earnest and resolved to stop getting drunk and picking up fights.
"He knew was done fighting, and he knew deep in his heart that he forgave his prison guards - every one of them, including The Bird," said Luke. "He went home that night, and it was the first night in virtually five years that he didn't have that recurring nightmare, and he never had it again the rest of his life. And he lived to be 97 years old."