A Tribute to Louis Zamparini – and to All Vets

Posted by Byron Kinney

A Tribute to Louis Zamparini – and to All Vets
Connected by fate at WWII's end in 1945, Byron Kinney (left) and Louis Zamperini formed a lasting friendship after meeting in 1985.

If I had to sum up the story of my friend, Louis Zamperini, his story is one of survival, suffering, salvation and forgiveness.

I came into his life by happenstance at the end of World War II in 1945, when I was a 21-year-old B-29 pilot tasked with a crew to reach the POW camp where Louis was being held, so we could drop critical food and supplies before the ground troops were able to reach them.

Today, millions of people know Louis's story, thanks to Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling book "Unbroken," which was also made into a 2014 biopic directed and produced by Angelina Jolie.

Those who attend our discussion on Saturday will learn even more details of how my own service intertwines with Louis's journey, which took him from competing in the 5,000-meter race in the 1936 Olympics, to serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II where his bomber crashed into the ocean. Louis was adrift for 47 days before being captured by the Japanese Navy and, ultimately, returning as the hero who inspires so many of us today.

I started telling his story after meeting him face-to-face in 1985, because at that time I felt his story was largely unknown and untold. I thought he deserved more than that.

Even back then, the message of his story began to spread. I would speak to one group and his story would inspire them enough to share it. Then another group would contact me to share it again. Today, I am able to honor my friend by speaking all over the country.

But in addition to my friend Louis, my talks also pay tribute to all veterans who served in World War II. Everybody who has served in that war – and in our military throughout the years – should be honored no matter what their role. Every time I speak, my efforts aim to honor heralding their sacrifice.


U.S. Army Air Corps Lt. Byron Kinney will present "An Unbreakable Bond: The Riveting Story Behind 'Unbroken'" at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26 in our Glenview Atrium, 2050 Claire Court, in Glenview. His presentation is part of our organization's We Honor Veterans program and a fundraiser for our program partner, Lake County Honor Flight, which sends veterans on an overnight trip to Washington D.C. to see their war memorials. To attend the discussion, purchase tickets online at lakecountyhonorflight.org ($25 online or $30 at the door) or call (847) 556-1778.

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