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 herdsmen, according to a Joint Base San Antonio press release.

He escaped both times, and in 2001, he and his uncle’s family were granted permission to come to the U.S. He settled in Concord, New Hampshire, where he learned English by watching cartoons, and later received a running scholarship to Iowa State University.

Guor Maker, a trainee at Air Force basic military training, supports a wingman taking a physical fitness test Jan. 30 at Join Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (Airman 1st Class Dillon Parker/Air Force).
Guor Maker, a trainee at Air Force basic military training, supports a wingman taking a physical fitness test Jan. 30 at Join Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (Airman 1st Class Dillon Parker/Air Force).

“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,” Maker said in the release. “And the only way to do that was through education and determination.”

He dreamed of qualifying for the Olympics, and he did — one year after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

But though South Sudan was now independent, they were not a member of the International Olympics Committee. Not yet a U.S. citizen, Maker ran the marathon without a country.

The experience inspired him to bring South Sudan to the Olympics, and in 2016, he was one of three athletes to represent South Sudan in the Olympics for the first time.

Gour Maker, a trainee at Air Force basic military training, completes the one and a half mile run portion of the Air Force physical fitness test Jan. 30 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Maker finished his run with a time of 7:31, earning the top fitness score for males in his graduating class. (Airman 1st Class Dillon Parker/Air Force)
Gour Maker, a trainee at Air Force basic military training, completes the one and a half mile run portion of the Air Force physical fitness test Jan. 30 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Maker finished his run with a time of 7:31, earning the top fitness score for males in his graduating class. (Airman 1st Class Dillon Parker/Air Force)

Maker, now a dental assistant in technical training, is turning his eye to serving his new country in the Air Force.

Gour Maker, a trainee at Air Force basic military training, stands in formation at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (Airman 1st Class Dillon Parker/Air Force)
Gour Maker, a trainee at Air Force basic military training, stands in formation at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (Airman 1st Class Dillon Parker/Air Force)

Maker hopes to join the Air Force World Class Athlete Program, which gives elite athletes the opportunity compete in national events to train for the Olympics. He wants to qualify for the 2020 Olympics, where he’ll have the opportunity to represent his new home country.

“All of the things I’ve accomplished have derived from the opportunities the U.S. has afforded me,” said Maker. “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.”

Airman 1st Class Gour Maker stands in formation at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (Airman 1st Class Dillon Parker/Air Force)
Airman 1st Class Gour Maker stands in formation at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (Airman 1st Class Dillon Parker/Air Force)