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.”
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.