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JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –-(Ammoland.com)- After enduring countless hardships and overcoming unimaginable obstacles, Air Force Airman 1st Class Guor Maker found his way out of war-torn South Sudan and into the U.S. nearly 20 years ago.
As one of roughly 20,000 children uprooted by the gruesome second Sudanese civil war, Maker’s childhood was far from normal. After losing 28 family members, including eight of his nine siblings, 8-year-old Maker set out on foot from South Sudan to live with his uncle.
“The country I came from was torn apart by war,” said Maker, who is attending training here to become a dental assistant “It was all I knew growing up, nothing else. I’ve seen people die in front of me, but I knew no matter what, I had to make it.”
During his harrowing journey, he was captured and enslaved twice: once by Sudanese soldiers, and once by herdsmen.
“When I was captured, I was forced to be a slave laborer,” Maker said. “I would wash dishes or do anything else needed to get by. I slept in a small cell and rarely got to eat … but not always.”
Twice escaped from enslavement, he finally joined his uncle in Khartoum after three perilous years. However, Maker’s journey to safety was far from over.
During a nighttime attack on his uncle’s home, he was beaten unconscious by a soldier who smashed his jaw with a rifle.
“My mouth was shut for two months and I could only consume liquids because my jaw was broken,” said. “We fled to Egypt after that, and the United Nations treated my injuries.”
After two years of filling out paperwork at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Egypt, Maker and his uncle’s family were finally granted permission to enter the United States.
“I was very excited to come to the U.S.,” he said. “Looking back at everything my family and I endured, it is a miracle that we made it out of there.”
When Maker first arrived in the U.S. in 2001, he settled in Concord, New Hampshire. Not only did he want to survive, but he wanted to thrive.
“I wanted to change my life, help my parents back in South Sudan, and give my future children a better childhood than the one I had,” he said. “And the only way to do that was through education and determination.”
Maker started with the basics — learning English by watching children’s cartoons and spending plenty of time with other high school kids, listening to their conversations and absorbing all that he could.
“Within a short amount of time, I was able to communicate with effectively with other students and teachers, order food, and really get by on my own,” he said.
While learning English was a crucial step his personal journey, Maker’s high school career really took off when one of his teachers introduced him to running.
“Running was always just natural and easy for me,” he said. “It was a great high school experience and it helped me meet a lot of friends, build confidence and it was genuinely fun.”
After winning the National High School indoor two-mile title, Maker received a scholarship to compete at Iowa State University, where he allowed himself to dream of things that had never been done before.
“When I got to college in 2005, I remember hanging a piece of paper on my wall that said I was going to run in the Olympics in 2012 for South Sudan,” he said. “I thought ‘Why not me? Why can’t I do it?’”
Maker graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and reached All-American status as a . Ready to start his new life, Maker planned to head to Flagstaff, Arizona, to train for the 2012 Olympics.
The same day he left for Arizona in 2011 was the day South Sudan officially gained its independence.
“I drove the whole way celebrating and it was a very special day that I will always remember,” Maker said.
Following his year of training, he qualified to run the marathon in the 2012 London Olympics.
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