His is one of the first faces visitors encounter at the state capitol.
A trusted security guard for the Colorado State Patrol.
It's a position Gatwec Dengpathot is proud and thankful to have. Especially considering he wasn't certain he would even live beyond his teenage years.
“What I used to say back then was that I'm living to die tomorrow,” he said. “So I only prayed to God that I see light today, and then I tomorrow I may not see another light.”
He arrived in Colorado as a refugee in 2001 after Sudan's devastating civil war left him malnourished, searching for food and constantly confronted by death.
“I saw some relatives and neighbors that died of starvation,” he recalls. “And then the wild animals, hyenas, and you know, dogs feed on them.”
He found himself separated from the elders, leading a group of small children through dangerous swamps and rivers, alone to a refugee camp, seeking safety.
“I didn't want to lose those kids under my watch and that's what hurt me the most,” he said.
The trek lasted two months and Dengpathot endured another five years at the camp before learning the United States would accept his family as refugees.
“It was the most beautiful thing in my life because we have waited for so long.”
Gatwec's life has flourished since he arrived in Colorado.
He has two children now who attend school in Denver. And he has built a happy life at home with his wife, who is also a refugee from Sudan.
With guidance from the African community center, a refugee support agency, he improved his English, graduated from high school and college, and became a United States citizen.
Gatwec Dengpathot, the former refugee, is now a success story. A living example of the American dream. His next step, he says, might be to run for public office in the country that has given him so much.