DETROIT(WJBK) - While living in a country torn apart by civil war just years ago, one Syrian refugee and now Metro Detroiter exercised his right to vote Tuesday in a presidential election for the first time.
"I'm so excited -- I just became a U.S. citizen in March," Shadi Martini said.
It's a big day for Martini.
"Looking back where I was 5 years ago, and now, participating in the U.S. election," he said.
Martini is voting in a presidential election for the first time, experiencing all that goes with it.
"The United States, even though some people feel it's a very, very terrible place at the moment, or there are a lot of hardships, if you go around the world, or my previous experience, what I have escaped from, it's a blessing to be here," he said.
It was 2011 when the Syrian refugee decided it was time take his family and flee the country. The former hospital manager's life was at risk after he illegally provided healthcare for people who were shot by government officials during protests.
"The majority of countries have a lot of problems in their democratic system, or there is a non-existent democratic system," he said.
He says elections in Syria didn't make much of a difference.
"Most of the people didn't bother to vote because we knew the results. It was all sham elections," he said.
Martini now serves as the senior advisor for the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian refugees, using his story to promote peace -- something he hopes Americans are able to share no matter who wins.
"I've read a lot about U.S. history. We've been through a lot of tough times, you know? Much tougher than at the moment, and we pass through it," he said.
Martini cast his vote Tuesday, exciting the polls on the verge of tears and sharing the special moment with his daughter and son.
"I am touched. Getting this opportunity, it's a blessing," he said.