By Dave Schwab
This year’s honored veteran at Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Association’s annual Veterans Week Ceremony on Nov. 5 truly sacrificed for his country.
“Capt. Louis Zamperini was an extraordinary World War II hero whose plane was shot down and lived in a life raft for 47 days before being captured and tortured daily by the Japanese.” said Bob Phillips, an honorary trustee of the memorial association.
An Army Air Forces bombardier, Zamperini — now 94 — was an Olympian who ran the 5,000-meter race at the 1936 Olympics and grew up in Torrance before becoming a decorated war veteran.
While he is in Long Beach at that community's Veterans Day event, his family will be presented with a plaque at the ceremony, which runs from noon to 1:15 p.m. at the mountaintop memorial at 6905 La Jolla Scenic Drive South. His name will be added to the more than 3,000 black granite plaques that include tributes to Medal of Honor recipients, U.S. presidents, admirals, generals, Hollywood stars and others who served the country.
Zamperini, a USC graduate, is the subject of the best-selling biography “Unbroken” by author Laura Hillenbrand, who also wrote “Seabiscuit.”
He epitomizes this year’s event theme, “If You Love Freedom, Thank A Veteran and the Active Military,” Phillips said.
As is tradition, the annual event will feature a T-34 aircraft flyover, a Navy Brass Quintet Band performance. Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo, Commanding General of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, will give the keynote address.
There will also be presentations by military commanders and local legislators, among them First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner and Congressman Brian Bilbray.
The Mt. Soledad Veterans Week ceremony typically draws 800-plus veterans, state and national officials, Medal of Honor recipients and the general public.
Phillips said plans are progressing to provide electrical power for lighting the walkways and flags at the memorial as well as operating a plaque locator there.
For more information, visit www.soledadmemorial.com.