BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Bowling Green sophomore Exodus Bargblor is too young to remember much of the struggle his name represents.
Bargblor, now 16, was 8 when his family came to America from a refugee camp in Ivory Coast, their safe haven away from home in war-torn Liberia.
But for his family, the soccer standout is a constant reminder of their harrowing journey from Africa, and the serendipitous circumstances that brought them here today.
"It's a long story - a long, sad story," said Bargblor's mother, Shirley. "But it proved nothing is impossible."
Left for dead
Exodus Bargblor was born April 7, 1996, in Liberia's capital city of Monrovia.
He was born as Liberia's first civil war was winding to a violent end, and he was born as his family fled from the bloodshed.
Shirley Bargblor was separated from her family, nine months pregnant and carrying the 1-month-old son of a relative on her back. That child would be named Survivor.
"There was no way to go to the hospital," Shirley Bargblor said. "I ran to a big lake in the city, and I walked until I was so weak that I couldn't move anymore."
Shirley was discovered and an ambulance soon arrived, but she was denied transport and told it was only for peace-keeping activities.
The rebel forces carried Shirley along a railroad line to the nearest clinic, where they left a stern message for the caretakers.
"They told them, 'If anything happens to this woman or the baby, you're responsible,' " she said.
The pressure in Shirley's stomach was so great that they were forced to extract her baby earlier than expected, she said, and the child was declared dead at birth.
For several hours, Shirley believed Exodus hadn't survived the journey.
He was placed in a pile of other deceased patients, many of them babies, because regulations during peace agreements required that bodies be inspected before burial.
Before that, burying people alive through negligence had become commonplace, Shirley said.
"It wasn't until the evening hour that they came back and said, 'We have good news for you,' " she said.
During the inspections of the bodies, Exodus was found still warm and still breathing.
Two weeks passed before a short cease-fire came and Shirley made it back to her family with the two infants, but it was during that time that she gave her newborn son his symbolic name.
"It was basically like saying, 'Let's get the freedom,' " Exodus said. "I guess she thought it was the right name for me."
The Bargblors remained in Liberia through peacetime until 1998, when uprisings began again and continued through late 2003.
"It would start a little bit and then stop," said Exodus' older brother, Eurodger Jr., now 22. "And then it came back, and my dad got fed up."
The family had nowhere to run in Liberia, so Shirley and her husband, Eurodger Sr., made the decision to flee to a refugee camp in Ivory Coast, which shares a border with Liberia.
They had no mode of transportation, so the Bargblors left Liberia in the middle of the night, dressed the men as women and walked nine days without a regular food supply to the Ivory Coast border.
They remained in the camp until 2004, and it was there that a youngest son, Refuge, now 12, was born.
Near the end of 2003, with Liberia struggling to find peace and Ivory Coast anything but stable, the Bargblors were among a group of refugees selected for extraction to the United States.
"We had to go to an orientation, and they asked a lot of questions," Eurodger Jr. said. "It was pretty much like a test. If you failed it, you don't get to go. We were very lucky, because so many didn't get to."
Generations of soccer
Most of Exodus Bargblor's faded memories overseas involve playing soccer, but one of his first recollections of Bowling Green was arriving in a harsh winter.
"I didn't know what was going on," he said. "I was like, 'Why am I shaking?' "
Exodus arrived with his parents, his older brother, his older sister Eleanor and a cousin. Two older sisters remained behind.
Eleanor, 25, graduated from Bowling Green High School in 2007. Eurodger Jr. graduated from Warren Central in 2009 and now plays soccer at Campbellsville University.
"He got me where I am right now," Exodus said of his brother. "He taught me how to play soccer. He usually takes me on the field with his friends. He doesn't like me playing with my own age because he thinks I'm being a little kid. He wants me to play with grown-ups, so whenever he sees me playing with my age, he drags me to his field."
Eurodger Jr. admits he's always been hard on Exodus, who wears a No. 5 jersey - the same number as his brother.
"I thought once he got with his own age group, he would be stronger," Eurodger Jr. said. "When he fell down and would complain, I told him to get right back up. I was hard on him because I always think he can be better than me and do anything he wants to do."
Bargblor broke out as a freshman last season for the Purples (20-2), who play at Region 3 champion Owensboro at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the first round of the state tournament.
This season, Bargblor - a forward - has 14 goals and seven assists, including two scores in Thursday's 7-0 win over South Warren in the Region 4 championship.
"There was basketball in my country a little bit, but soccer was the only sport my family played," Exodus said. "All of my family members play soccer. It went through generations, and I had to keep it going.
"I've progressed a lot. My touch has gotten better, and my shots and finishing has gotten a lot better, too."
A new life
Soccer has intertwined the family, but it's a small part of the life the Bargblors have rebuilt in Bowling Green.
Shirley and Eurodger Sr. were given entry-level factory jobs when they arrived, a contrast from their former lives. She had been a teacher, and he was a director of industry for the Ministry of Commerce.
But the obstacles they faced here can't measure up to the ones they've already hurdled.
Both are studying at Western Kentucky University. Shirley is working toward a degree in business management, she said.
And Exodus, the boy who was almost left for dead, has grown into a strong young man - with a little tough love from his older brother.
The Bargblors' long, sad story is fully enveloped in its own happy ending.
"Very grateful," Shirley said. "It stays in our mind. It's immeasurable."Tags: