LV Marine dies on father's birthday
Family: Cpl. Salazar, 26, 'loved what he was doing' for country'
By Heather Rawlyk
LAS VEGAS SUN
Less than two days before 26-year-old Marine Cpl. William Salazar of Las Vegas was killed by a car bomb explosion in Iraq, he wrote an e-mail to his father to wish him a happy birthday:
"Dad, It's getting tight around here. There have been a few near misses with road bombs. It's scary, but I'm tough. I'll be OK ... I'm still alive and well. Happy Birthday. I always forget your birthday so if I'm late or early, at least I tried to remember. So Happy Birthday Dad."
The e-mail was the last communication Gus Salazar had from his son. The corporal died Friday, his father's birthday, after sustaining multiple injuries from a car bomb explosion, according to the military.
Salazar was one of three U.S. troops killed Friday when a bomb exploded near Qaim, along the Syrian border, according to his uncle, Lou Salazar, 53, of Las Vegas. An Iraqi interpreter was also killed in the explosion, Lou Salazar was told. A Marine Corps spokesman would not comment on where Salazar was killed. Qaim is in Al Anbar Province.
William Salazar's job in Operation Iraqi Freedom was to record footage of the war, his uncle said.
"We were really shocked and surprised when we were told Saturday," he said. "With what he was doing, we never thought that something like this would happen. We thought as a camera guy, he would be doing a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff and be in less danger.
"But he was actually trained as a foot solder, and he was obviously out there in the middle of it all. He really loved it, though. He loved what he was doing." Lou Salazar said his nephew was always interested in graphic design and the film industry. William Sala-zar's father and stepmother, Jennifer Salazar, both currently work in the film industry in Los Angeles.
"He wanted to follow in his dad's footsteps," Lou Salazar said. "But there were other footsteps he wanted to follow in. I was in the Marines and was in Vietnam. My cousin was also in the Marines and William wanted to follow the Marine tradition."
After graduating from South Gate High School in his native Lynwood, Calif., William Salazar took a handful of graphic arts classes at the Art Institute of Los Angeles. He also took classes at the East Los Angeles Community College.
In May 2001, he moved in with his uncle and aunt, Lou and Cecila Salazar, at their northeast Las Vegas home.
Before joining the Marines, William Salazar worked at Metro Pizza on Tropicana Avenue, his uncle said.
"He liked that a lot, but he still wanted to join the Marines," Lou Salazar said. "He knew the Marines would get him to college after he was done."
Salazar joined the Marines in November 2001 and was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Although William Salazar was already planning to join the Marines prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, one of his good friends, David Aguilar, said the event further motivated the young man. The two were roommates in Las Vegas at the time of the attack. William Salazar awoke his friend to watch the television news just before the second airplane struck the World Trade Center.
"He was already talking to a recruiter and working out, exercising. Then that afternoon or the next, he was calling his recruiter and asking, 'When can I get shipped out?'" Aguilar said.
Then Salazar was sent to Camp Lejeune, N.C., to train as a combat cameraman, his uncle said.
"He was so excited when he was assigned that job," Lou Salazar said. "He was getting to do everything he wanted to do and tie his interests together. We were excited for him, until he said he was going to Iraq.
"Then we started getting worried."
William Salazar broke the news to his family that he was being sent to Iraq the day before Mother's Day, according to his mother, Gloria Salazar of Bullhead City, Ariz.
"My heart just broke when he told me," she said. "My heart broke because it's a war that I'm wondering 'What are they even fighting for?' But my son believed in fighting for his country and thought it was the right thing to do. This is what he wanted to do.
"As a mother, you support your son whatever he wants to do and you just pray every day that he'll come home to you safe. But he didn't. He never came home."
During his four months in Iraq, Salazar would frequently email hi family and friends to update them and request goodies, his mother said.
He had just recently sent an e-mail to one of his childhood buddies, Marco Aguilar, 26, a research scientist from Covina, Calif., and no relation to David Aguilar, specifically asking for some comedy tapes because "Iraq wasn't a very happy place," his friend said.
"In his last e-mail, he thanked us for sending him a package with cookies and salsa and chips and those things he loved," she said. "He loved our packages and would share them with his buddies over there. That e-mail was the last I heard from him - the day before he died."
Gloria Salazar said she was at home early Saturday evening when she got the news about her son.
"Two Marines showed up at my door and I knew when I saw them - I knew my son was dead," she said.
Salazar described her son as a "very fun-loving person who loved life and had a lot of family values."
"He wanted to get married and have family and children," she said. "He was very well liked. He was very gifted. He played trombone for an East Los Angeles jazz band."
Salazar said her son loved be-ing a Marine, but had told her he would not re-enlist in 2005.
"He wanted to go to Cal State in Los Angeles," she said. "He said he wanted to take teaching and business classes. He either wanted to be a teacher or own a pizza parlor. Whatever he did, we were really behind him."
William Salazar's older brother, Sammy Acosta, 35, who lives in Honolulu, said his entire family was proud when Salazar joined the Marines.
"He just wanted to get there and get some experience and take advantage of the schools they are sent to," he said.
Before leaving for Iraq, Acosta said he told his brother "to be careful, and that when he got back he was going to baptize my newborn son."
Salazar called Acosta last week, but it was 4 a.m. in Hawaii and he missed the call, he said.
"I got a message, and I just keep resaving it every day," Acosta said, pausing for long periods while talking on the phone with the Sun.
Members of the Nevada con-gressional delegation issued statements praising Salazar's service.
Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., said Salazar is "one of the fallen heroes Americans should be grateful for."
"His sacrifice, his life, is not going to be in vain," Gibbons said. "He will be remembered by all of us."
Funeral arrangements have not yet been set for Salazar, but he will be buried in Resurrection Cemetery in Montebello, Calif., his mother said.
"I knew there was a chance this could happen, but I just never thought that it would," she said. "I can only take pride in him and know he was really happy with what he was doing and serving his country to make a difference."
Sun reporter Dan Kulin contributed to this story
My father's birthday is September 11.
I always check these stories out to make sure they are valid...sadly this story seems true.
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Cpl. William I. Salazar, 26, of Las Vegas, Nev., died Oct. 15 from wounds received as result of enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Salazar was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
For further information contact the Camp Pendleton public affairs office at (760) 725-5044.
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