Las Vegas Marine killed in action in Iraq
LAS 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.
The 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 the Al Anbar province of western Iraq.
“Dad, 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.”
William 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.
“With 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.
Lou 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.
“He 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 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 and played trombone for a local jazz band.
In May 2001, he moved in with his uncle and aunt, Lou and Cecila Salazar, at their northeast Las Vegas home.
Salazar joined the Marines in November 2001 and was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
He 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.”
William 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.
“My 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.”
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made for Salazar, but he will be buried in Resurrection Cemetery in Montebello, Calif., his mother said.
He was the fifth soldier with ties to Nevada killed in Iraq or Kuwait since Operation Iraqi Freedom began in 2003.