Samuel Nehemiah is the national anthem singer on the Big Bay Boom on FOX 5. Coverage of the fireworks spectacular begins at 8 p.m. on July Fourth.
SAN DIEGO — Samuel Nehemiah is a man who once had no home. And no family. And no particular purpose in life. The San Diegan is a native of Nigeria who was diagnosed with polio at the age of four. That was the kind of diagnosis that not only meant Nehemiah couldn’t walk. It also meant he couldn’t stay in his family’s home.
Orphaned at age four, Nehemiah had to find his own path in life. He found his education by crawling to the school house. He found singing as a way to stand out despite his physical challenges. And he found sports as a way to fit in. In fact, by 1994, in the years after discovering wheelchair sports opportunities, Nehemiah became the top wheelchair athlete in a major international competition.
Racing a wheelchair also meant a chance to compete for Nigeria in the Paralympics. But because of the poor facilities in his home country, he was given the opportunity to train in the United States. That fateful chance turned into a new fate all together. Nehemiah came to the U.S. to make his Paralympic team. But he stayed into the U.S. to make a new life.
Decades later and now an American citizen, Nehemiah has four kids with another on the way. He is a motivational speaker to young people all across the country. And he uses that singing talent he developed as a young kid in an orphanage to sing to older military veterans who might otherwise be forgotten. It’s a feeling Nehemiah knows something about. And it’s his way of saying thanks for the country they helped build for his new life.