An amazing story of tenacity, survival and grit:
Airman 1st Class Guor Maker fled war and slavery in South Sudan almost 20 years ago, came to the United States, and has become a college graduate, an Olympian, and, now, an airman.
As an 8-year-old, Maker, now 33, lost eight of his nine siblings in the Sudanese Civil War and was captured and enslaved twice, once by Sudanese soldiers and once by herdsman, according to a Joint Base San Antonio press release.
From the press release:
“When I was captured, I was forced to be a slave laborer,” said Maker. “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.”
Both times, Maker successfully escaped from enslavement and was finally able to join his uncle in Khartoum after three perilous years. However, his journey to safety was far from over.
During a nighttime attack on the perceived safety of his uncle’s home, Maker sustained serious injuries when 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,” he 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.,” said Maker. “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 and began learning English by watching children’s cartoons and spending plenty of time with other high school kids just 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,” Maker said.