USAFA Cadets Choose Bombardier, Christian as Exemplar

In a relatively recent tradition, each class of US Air Force Academy cadets since 2000 has chosen an “exemplar” representing the character and fortitude to which they would like to aspire. Exemplars have included airpower giants like Mitchell and Doolittle, famous fighter pilots like Olds, and Major David Brodeur, USAFA Class of 1999, who was killed in Afghanistan.

The USAFA Class of 2018 recently chose as its exemplar Capt Louis Zamperini, Army Air Corps bombardier, POW, and outspoken Christian:

Cadet 3rd Class J. Benson Anderson, Jr., an Exemplar Committee official, said Zamperini was selected because he demonstrated the character and conviction the Class of 2018 strives to maintain.

“His loyalty in situations of grave hardship provides us with a model for our conduct in the face of severe stress many of us could face in our Air Force careers,” Anderson said.

As has now been made famous by the Angelina Jolie-produced Unbroken, Zamperini was one of three who survived a B-24 ditching in the Pacific Ocean only to wash up on Japanese territory 47 days later.

Louis Zamperini speaks at the 1963 Billy Graham Crusade at the Los Angeles Coliseum. (Image via BGEA)

Zamperini is also famously known for returning from the war as a hate-filled alcoholic who attended a Billy Graham crusade, was saved, and would return to Japan to forgive his former captors.

While Zamperini’s faith wasn’t mentioned in the USAFA article, it was noted when Zamperini visited Edwards AFB in 2012.

Hopefully a few of the Class of 2018 will have time between GRs and training sessions to read up on their exemplar, and in the process be gently exposed to Gospel through a man who truly did model the “passion and commitment” from which these cadets can benefit.

Read the review of Zamperini’s autobiography, Devil at my Heels, Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, and a discussion on the movie Unbroken.