It was weeks before Christmas last year, when entrepreneur Sal Shakir decided he wanted to give his family the gift of freedom. By convincing his parents to change the contact information on the mortgage, he was able to access their account information and make a lump sum payment to cover the six-figure outstanding balance. Paying off his parents’ mortgage was always a dream for Shakir, who recalls the sacrifice his parents made for him as a young boy.

“As a child I witnessed multiple wars, we had multiple break ins, and my dad got shot. I was 12 years old and we were living in constant fear… we were in the middle of a war zone,” Sal Shakir recalled on the All In Entrepreneurs podcast.

“I will never forget the day we had our house broken into. I was so scared that when I had a second to run, I raced upstairs, and I was staring down the barrel of a gun. He pulled the trigger… and he had no ammo… I shouldn’t be alive today,” he continued.

The chilling stories of Shakirs upbringing are enough to make even the strongest man shrivel. Sal Shakir humbly admits that he should be dead, and that he is grateful for everyday he has on this earth.

Shakirs family left the war zone in Iraq when he was 15 years old, with nothing to their name, to chase the American dream. He started his career in the U.S. by doing anything he could to help his family survive. He would go to school in the morning and pick up odd jobs after school to help pay the bills.

Today, Shakir and his partner Carlos Reyes, operate 14 successful businesses and has turned himself into a household name in the real estate industry. The serial entrepreneur has successfully helped hundreds of people become financially free through real estate, but he always wanted to provide that same freedom to his parents.

In a documented video, Shakir was able to surprise his parents for Christmas by paying off the mortgage on the house he once lived in.

“I wanted to surprise them for Christmas because they blessed me with so much. If it wasn’t for my parents, I wouldn’t be alive. They risked everything to get us to America and give me the opportunity for a better life,” said Shakir.

Shakirs journey to the American dream was difficult, after working odd jobs to help pay the bills he worked construction jobs as a painter and plumber because he spoke very little English. After saving enough money to purchase a property that had been nearly burned down in a fire, he eventually fixed and sold his first property. Nearly 4 years after selling his first property, Shakirs company now sells over 50 properties every month and he employs hundreds of people, including many family members.

While Sal enjoys the opportunities that real estate has given him, he still remains humble, soft spoken and lives a very simple life. A faith driven man, Shakir continues to work long hours because he wants to continue to provide for his family. That humility is something that can’t be taught, only learned through life altering experiences. The American dream is one worth chasing, especially when he’s able to give his parents a better life, just like they gave him when they left Iraq to come to America years ago.