Uplifting | Good Deeds

He Was A Former Slave Who Became An Olympian, Now He's Joined The Air Force To Pay America Back

Hot in Juba / Air Force

There's no shortage of athletes with inspiring life stories, but none of them measure up to Guor Maker's.

The two-time Olympian had to fight to survive all his life, and his incredible true story reminds us that nothing comes without hard work.

But Maker inspires us for another reason: today he's serving our country to say "thank you" for the opportunities it gave him.

Maker (who also goes by Guor Marial) grew up in Sudan (now North and South Sudan) during one of the country's heated civil wars.

The Olympian told Air Force Times that war "was all I knew growing up, nothing else.” But that just taught him to fight to survive, and to never give up.

“I've seen people die in front of me," he explained, "but I knew no matter what, I had to make it."

Escaping to America

Maker and his parents in 2013.UNHCR

28 of Maker's family members, including eight of his siblings, were killed in the fighting.

To protect their son the only way they could, Maker's parents told their eight-year-old son to travel on foot to his uncle's home in the city of Khartoum.

The journey would take three years, and Maker was kidnapped and enslaved twice along the way.

Once, he was taken by Sudanese soldiers. Then, by herdsmen. Both times, Maker was used for slave labor before he managed to escape.

"I would wash dishes or do anything else needed to get by," he remembered. "I slept in a small cell and rarely got to eat...but not always"

Even when Maker arrived at his uncle's home, his troubles weren't over.

The young boy had his jaw smashed by a soldier's rifle during a nighttime attack, and it had to be wired shut for months.

That was the last straw Maker and his uncle's family, and they fled to Egypt as refugees.

After two years, the group was finally allowed to move to America.

While the most harrowing part of Maker's story was over, the next chapter of his incredible life was just beginning.

The Runner Without a Country

Traveling to America at age 16,  was a life-changing event for Maker, and he appreciated all of the new opportunities available to him.

"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."

Maker started high school - learning English by watching children's cartoons - and quickly impressed his coaches as a track athlete.

After setting records and earning a running scholarship, Maker set his sights on the Olympics.

But his path to the games was a little complicated.

Maker dreamed of competing for the newly created country of South Sudan, which he considered his home.

But the country wasn't recognized by the Olympics in 2012, and Maker wasn't a U.S. citizen yet either. That made him an athlete without a country, and he raced representing the Olympic flag.

At the Rio Olympics in 2016, Maker's dream of racing for South Sudan finally came true, and he competed as one of the country's very first Olympians.

But Maker wanted to represent and serve his adopted country just as strongly.

Dillon Parker / U.S. Air Force

Serving America

"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 about coming to America.

"And the only way to do that was through education and determination."

Now, to pay our country back for everything it offered him, Maker has joined the Air Force.

He's training to be a dental technician, and has already earned awards for leadership and inspiring other recruits.

"All of the things I've accomplished have derived from the opportunities the U.S. has afforded me," maker said.

"When I first came to America, I didn't have hardly anything, but with the support and opportunity this country has given me, I've been able to completely change my life."

But Maker has one last dream: to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but this time on team U.S.A.

What an inspiring man! Let's all root for him in 2020!

[H/T: Military.com, The Sun]