- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

YANKTON, S.D. (AP) - Yankton High School senior Bashir Abdalkreem says he doesn’t mind sharing the story of his family’s tragic past in Iraq, but he’s also trying to move on with life.

The 17-year-old member of the junior varsity football team often shares his story with local church groups and his classmates. Abdalkreem was only 7 and living in his native Iraq when his mother, Mayasa Abass, was shot and injured by terrorists in front of a US military compound in 2004.

“When I was younger, it was very hard for me,” Abdalkreem said. “Sometimes you have to forget; can’t totally forget, but you have to move on.”

Abass worked as a translator for coalition forces in Iraq, the Yankton Press and Dakotan (http://bit.ly/1MhqUuB ) reported. She was shot six times after an armed gunman demanded she get out of her vehicle. She survived her injuries.

Two years later, armed men arrived at Abdalkreem’s home and killed his older brother, Amen. The gunmen also kidnapped his father and held him for ransom. The family paid, but Abdalkreem’s father was never returned.

The remaining family fled to Syria, where they spent 10 months before a former Yankton reservist with the Special Operations Command Headquarters helped the family move to the United States.

“After those 10 months, we figured out we would go to America to start a new life,” Abdalkreem said. “That was my mom’s dream, when she started with the Americans.”

Since arriving in Yankton in 2007, he’s found a spot on the high school’s junior varsity football team. Yankton football coach Arlin Likness praises Abdalkreem’s versatility on the field and says the young man has gone through more than most 17-year-olds.

“He’s made himself a better person because of it all, and he keeps on going,” Likness said. “He stays on the positive side, and he uses his energy for the good.”

During a recent interview with the newspaper, Abdalkreem said he no longer takes anything for granted.

“I’ve learned you have to earn things in life; it’s not easy,” he said. “I know what to expect. I work hard for everything. Nothing is easy; nothing is handed to you.”

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Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, http://www.yankton.net/

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