Louis Zamperini competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin berfore enlisting in the Air Force to fight in World War II. When his B-24 bomber crashed in the Pacific Ocean, Zamperini and his crew survived on a raft at sea for 47 days. They were then captured and placed in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
Zamperini's tale of courage and incredible strength in the face of unimaginable adversity was chroncled in Laura Hillenbrand's 2011 best-selling book "Unbroken," and is now a movie of the same name directed by Angelina Jolie set to open in theaters on December 25.
To honor Zamperini Universal Pictures launched the #IAmUnbroken campaign on November 11. The campaign celebrates unbroken spirits from across the world by inviting people to share their stories of triumph over adversity.
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"Louie Zamperini's unbelievable life was marked by obstacle after setback, ones that forced him to rise and meet seemingly insurmountable challenges again and again." said Doug Neil, executive vice-president, digital marketing, Universal Pictures. "With the #IAmUnbroken campaign, we celebrate Louie's legacy of perseverance by honoring those everyday heroes who refuse to let their circumstances dictate their destiny, but instead choose to define themselves as triumphant survivors."
Here, two first person accounts submitted to the campaign. For more inspiring stories go to IAmUnbroken.com.
Jonathan Swiatocha of Tarrant, Texas writes:
My name is Jonathan Swiatocha and I'm a survivor of drunk driving.
On Dec 6, 2002 my family and I were hit by an underage drunk driver and at the age of ten I had suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. Because I was so young, the doctors didn't know if I'd survive because of the damage that had been done or if I did survive if id ever fully function again. After going through months of rehab and relearning how to walk again after being paralyzed from the waist down, I still to this day struggle with effects from the brain injury but am not letting that stop me from achieving my goals in life.
Today at the age of 22 I feel called to be an international speaker so this year I started to share my story and video with people young and old across the State of Texas trying to help save as many lives from alcohol related crashes as I can. I'm also trying to be the first survivor of a traumatic brain injury to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials.
Paul Avila of Covina, California writes:
Over 17 yrs ago I was blessed with a special angel in my life. As life would have it my son would be born blind and autistic and as a young father I was very upset with God. Little did i know how this young man would change my life and touch and inspire so many people.
Since Pauly cannot see or talk I have relied on music to sooth and calm him. Music is literally our lifesaver with my son. One day as I was volunteering at a downtown LA food mission I saw a homeless man singing and dancing with his headphones on a street corner. It was then when I thought of Pauly and started "Pauly's Project."
My son is my inspiration and we collect donations from family and friends and purchase and distribute AM-FM headphones to LA's largest homeless community in Skid Row. Pauly is very well known in the streets and the homeless are so touched and honored to receive their free headphone set from him. Music is the universal language and we want to use that to put a smile on others who are facing difficult circumstances.
As one lady had told me.."Paul, all night I hear fighting, screaming, pimps, prostitutes, sirens, drug dealing etc.. but the headphones Pauly gave me let me close my eyes and tune out of the toxic environment through music."
We have giving away over 1000 headphones at this point and as long we get donations we are going to take "Pauly's Project" to the next level. Now I thank God for giving me my special needs son that we are taking his disability and using it to touch thousands of LA's most needy. We are changing the streets..one heartBEAT at a time..
"Unbroken" opens in theaters on December 25, 2014.
(NBC and Universal Pictures are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)