A student's speech to the graduates reveals a family built on faith

Published: Sunday, June 10 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

He will be the first in his extended family to serve in the military. It was a part of his familys story that he shared at the graduation ceremony.

"I have learned that our world becomes a better place, one person at a time," he told the graduation audience, of his decision to serve.

August said he's only doubted his decision once and that was during his first round of training. People were yelling at him, challenging him.

"I thought, 'What have I gotten myself into?'" he said grinning. "Why am I doing this? Why don't I get a normal job? But then I realized the reason I am doing it - for my friends, family and the country. And bonding with all of the other soldiers got me through it."

He said his superiors in the military have been respectful of his religion, even asking if he needs to take time to pray, which he does five times a day.

"I was surprised that being a Muslim is not different," August's mom said.

August said he is respected, even valued for his uniqueness.

"They've even asked me questions about our beliefs," he said. "They look after me really well."

He said he looks forward to shattering negative stereotypes about Muslims. Some folks are disrespectful and offer their own brand of torment. But others are polite. He said he's gone from having teens yell Arabic words at him, suggest he's a suicide bomber, to having an older gentleman pay for his lunch because he was in uniform.

"It makes me happy to know that people appreciate what I do," he said.

And his mother is proud of the man he's become, even as she continues to worry for his safety.

"I feel so proud and kind of worried," she said, a few days removed from the graduation speech. "At least my son is giving something back to this world."

And on a cool, June evening last week, he gave his classmates a lesson on gratitude and grace, a speech that earned him recognition from Canyons School District Supt. David Doty, who called him back to the front of the stage following his speech.

"He's an amazing young man, by all accounts, and I couldn't help but take a minute to publicly thank him for sharing his story at such an important event for him and his classmates," Doty said.

"Our lives changed dramatically," August had told the crowd, many crying openly.

"We had lived in a mansion; now we found ourselves in a small apartment. Before we took our money, gold and luxurious belongings for granted; now we were thankful to have blankets and a laundry basket.

"Over the next few years, we went through adversity together. What kept us going was our strong religious faith that through doing good and choosing the right over ease and corruption, we would one day be rewarded."

As a first generation immigrant to the United States, I have personally seen some people work hard to achieve their dreams while others have allowed their dreams to fade. My mother chose to dream, and to teach us to follow her example of working hard to achieve worthwhile accomplishments."

E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com

Twitter: adonsports

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