Vegas Marine killed in action in Iraq
VEGAS — Less than two days before 26-year-old Marine Cpl.
William Salazar was killed in a car bomb explosion in Iraq,
he wrote an ominous e-mail to his father about the dangers
he faced daily.
missive was the last communication Gus Salazar received from
his son, who had written to say happy birthday. The Las
Vegas corporal died Friday along with two other U.S. troops
in Anbar province in western Iraq.
It’s getting tight around here,” the Marine wrote.
“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.”
Salazar’s job in Operation Iraqi Freedom was to record
footage of the war, said his uncle, 53-year-old Lou Salazar
of Las Vegas.
what he was doing, we never thought that something like this
would happen,” his uncle told The Las Vegas Sun. “We
thought as a camera guy, he would be doing a lot of
behind-the-scenes stuff and be in less danger.
Salazar said his nephew was always interested in graphic
design and the film industry. William Salazar’s father and
stepmother, Jennifer Salazar, both work in the film industry
in Los Angeles.
wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps,” the uncle
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
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.
also took classes at the East Los Angeles Community College
and played trombone for a local jazz band.
2001, he moved in with his uncle and aunt, Lou and Cecila
Salazar, at their northeast Las Vegas home.
joined the Marine Corps in November 2001 and was assigned to
Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine
Expeditionary Force, at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
sent to Camp Lejeune, N.C., to train as a combat cameraman,
his uncle said.
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.”
Salazar told his family that he was heading to Iraq the day
before Mother’s Day, according to his mother, Gloria
Salazar of Bullhead City, Ariz.
heart just broke when he told me,” she said. “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.”
in Iraq remembered as brave cameraman
RIVERA, Calif. — Marine Cpl. William Salazar carried a
rifle but hardly used it in Iraq.
he wielded a video camera to capture footage of the war and
suspected terrorists and hoped his work might one day lead
to a job in the film industry.
26, killed in an Oct. 15 suicide bombing in Iraq’s Anbar
province, became the first Marine combat cameraman killed in
action since 1967 during the Vietnam war, said his
commander, Staff Sgt. Paul Anstine.
assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I
Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
funeral Saturday, the Las Vegas resident who grew up in the
Los Angeles area was remembered by hundreds of family
members, friends and Marines who said he fulfilled his
ultimate dream of becoming a Marine.
sad but I can’t be much happier knowing that he lived and
achieved his dream,” his father, 56-year-old Gus Salazar
of Northridge, said at a family gathering following the
Salazar, one of about 20 Marine still- and video-cameramen
serving in Iraq, shot footage of suspected terrorists, Iraqi
government officials and vehicle checkpoints, Anstine said.
was not afraid to get close to the action,” Anstine said.
“Some people are very shy and they use their zoom lenses.
He wasn’t afraid to get right up there. ... He loved the
Marine Corps and loved what he did and had a great desire to
be better, because he soaked up everything I could teach
on assignments, Salazar carried both a rifle and a Sony
video camera equipped with night vision lenses. He received
most of his assignments from Anstine through a secure e-mail
network, but also was given the authority to choose missions
within his division, Anstine said.
like raids, he wanted to go on. Sometimes he’d want to
overwork himself by going on way too many missions,” said
his former combat partner, Lance Cpl. Michael McMaugh, who
went on missions with Salazar shooting photographs of the
war. “He always wanted to be part of the action.”
had tried to join the Marines shortly after high school, but
was turned down several times because he was overweight, his
relatives and friends said.
he was eventually recruited in November 2001, he had wanted
to become a demolition expert but was assigned as a combat
cameraman, in part, because of his education in graphic arts
at the Art Institute of Los Angeles, his father said.
who was scheduled to complete his tour in February, had
debated whether to remain in the Marine Corps or return to
California to find work as a cameraman in the film industry.
come back safe,” his uncle, 53-year-old Lou Salazar of Las
Vegas, said he told him the last time they talked.