Chicago (CBS) -- Across the country, many are proudly flying their American flags this Independence Day. One suburban barber always has the stars and stripes on display as a reminder of her journey to becoming a U.S. citizen.
With every clip and every snip, Karol Arkalyus lets her flag fly.
"I came to this country as an immigrant," she said.
You can't miss the American flag she flies every day at her barber shop in Kenilworth.
"Thank God I am here. God bless America for sure," she said. "They saved my life, and my son's life here."
Hers is no typical immigrant story. An Assyrian living in Iraq when her husband died while fighting in the war against Iran in the 1980s, she was a single mother at the age of 21.
"As an Assyrian, we suffered a lot back home," she said. "I apply for political asylum to stay here and save my son's life here."
After moving to the U.S., she learned a new trade in her new country.
"Here I am doing my business for almost 19 years," she said.
Along the way, she became an American citizen with the help of her clients.
"They give me a test. They used to sit on the chair, and they took the test questions, and they asked me questions in the barber chair," she said.
Longtime client Joel Webber was one of the customers who helped her prepare for the citizenship test. He said he knew she'd passed the test when he came in one day and she had hung the American flag on the wall.
"What was very poignant was she went through all this effort, and I'd known her for years. One day I come in, and there's that American flag on the wall. That was her, 'Yeah, I made it, Joel. I'm a citizen,'" Webber said. "It was like something from a Hallmark card, except it was real. So it was marvelous."
Her son is a man now, but she keeps working at a fast clip. She wouldn't have it any other way.
"I don't know how to say it, because my English is not that good, but it's like some feeling like you are a citizen. Hey, you're an American. Hey, I am an American citizen," she said.
Arkalyus has worked throughout the North Shore, and her clients have followed her from location to location.