‘Lost Boy’ Now Found - WLNS TV 6 Lansing - Jackson | Your Local News Leader

‘Lost Boy’ Now Found


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – When Sgt. Santino Madut was a Sudanese refugee on a grueling odyssey through the Sahara 20 years ago when he was about nine years old, he had no idea that today, he'd be serving the very same country he says saved his life.

"We walked 25 days in the desert. Twenty-five days," he says.

Madut was one of thousands of "Lost Boys"—young children who fled Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War. The war, which started in 1983 and lasted through 2005, claimed roughly 2 million lives. It was a war that separated Madut from his parents when he was only four years old.

"When I turned 10 years old, I was able to take care of myself," says Sgt. Madut. "At 10 years old I learned to fire a weapon because that's the only thing I had."

Without adult supervision, Madut and the other Lost Boys learned to fend for themselves as they traveled through the wilderness and the desert, looking for safety away from their war-stricken home. Along the way, Madut says many of the children he traveled with died from sickness or attacks from wild animals. "We were forced out of Ethiopia to cross the river…we lost like 3,000 boys and girls in the river because there were like alligators and crocodiles," he says.

Food was also scarce. Madut says it was a struggle to stay nourished, and that he ate trees, leaves, snakes, mice—anything he could find. But somehow, Madut managed to survive until the Red Cross came to rescue the children from the desert in 1992.

The group brought much-needed food, water and medicine, and took the children to refugee camps in Kenya.  

Several years later, the U.S. made provisions for some of the Sudanese refugees to move overseas. Madut was one of them. He came to Mid-Michigan when he was 17, where he attended high school and college.

After the initial culture shock wore off, Madut says he began to contemplate how he could repay the U.S. for rescuing him from death. He says over the years he saw the respect soldiers would get, and realized that was the perfect way for him to give back. "I decided one night—I said, ‘I'm gonna join.'"

And the very next day, he did—leaving behind the boy who was once lost and becoming a man now found.

Emerald Morrow is a reporter with WLNS-TV. Reach out to her on Facebook, Twitter or email at emorrow@wlns.com.

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