first_imgGLENDALE – Louis Zamperini was a star to students at Wilson Middle School even before the 90-year-old World War II veteran stepped into their auditorium. Having seen a video on Zamperini before he visited Thursday, the students crowded around the beaming old man in a USC cap. Then again, Zamperini is used to attention. He was an Olympic track star before he survived 47 days on a raft in the Pacific, and before enduring two and a half years in a POW camp and returning home a hero. “They call us the greatest generation. I don’t like that term,” Zamperini said in an interview after the school presentation. “We were the hardy generation. And how do you become hardy? Overcoming adversity.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre Zamperini has overcome his share of it. The co-author of a book about his life called “Devil at My Heels,” he still pilots a private plane to Twenty Nine Palms, where he talks to Marines completing training. And he meets students, who pepper him with questions. On Thursday, a student asked if he saw sharks from his raft. “Lots of sharks, yeah,” Zamperini said. “They say that human beings are not part of the shark food chain. Don’t you believe it.” Other vets were also honored at the presentation. Pascual Campanilla survived the Bataan Death March in the Philippines during World War II. Gerald Abrahamson piloted a B-29 bomber in the Korean War and was captured after the plane was shot down. Abrahamson, 75, had to parachute out when his bomber was shot down by a MiG fighter jet. Afraid his hands would freeze up, he opened his parachute too early. Slowly descending, he was vulnerable to enemy fire. But none came – all that surrounded him was perfect silence, he said. Abrahamson was soon captured and held in North Korea. The experience showed him how poor the country was, and still is, he said. As for himself, the Glendale resident said the war changed him. “I think you become more serious at a younger age,” he said. “You appreciate your life more. Every day, when the sun comes up, it’s a bonus.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more