Salazar, USMC, Memorial
Combat Photographer &
Sentinel Of Vigilance
ZERO PLUS 1166 DAYS,--New York, NY, Sunday, November
buddy of mine was killed in Iraq. He was my son, my brother,
my father, my grandfather.
His name is William
I. Salazar. Age 26. A United States Marine Corps Combat Cameraman.
He was killed October 15 in Al Anbar province of Iraq during
a suicide bombing. (See tributes to him: Tributes
to Cpl. Salazar )
He was a member of the 1st Marine
Division Camera Detachment, videotaping weapons searches of
vehicles and other operations. The information was used for
was the first combat cameraman to be killed since 1967 when
the Vietnam war took the lives of a number of Combat Correspondents.
In Vietnam I replaced
a dead Marine Combat Correspondent. His name was Lester Arthur
Wesighan, Cpl., 4312. He was killed on March 4, 1966 in Quang
Ngai Province, South Vietnam by small arms fire. He was reporting
at the time with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, "C"
Company. Captain Alexander Lee was in command of Company C when
I filled a dead
a dead man's shoes
I had been on the
first amphibious assault since Korea, storming the shores of
Vietnam as John Wayne did in WWII. We slammed into the surf
and charged the beaches, and I was right up front with my rifle,
camera and notepad.
At the same time,
Wesighan was lying in the muck with a bullet in the belly, screaming
for water and dying the slow rice paddy death of U.S. Marine
Combat Correspondents who fight first and write about it later.
When I met Captain
Lee a few weeks later to take over the dead man's job, Lee looked
at me and said: "I got one of you guys killed and gave
another one the Silver Star, so you've got a pretty good chance
of getting something in between."
as a Combat Correspondent in Vietnam taking the place
of another marine who was killed
The Silver Star
was given to another Combat Correspondent who had been with
Captain Lee's company and pulled a number of wounded out from
So when I received
my U.S. Marine Combat Correspondents Association Newsletter,
Vol. 63, No. 1, dated November 2004, I focused directly on my
brother, my son, my grandson, my father, my grandfather--Cpl.
William I. Salazar.
I refer to Cpl.
Salazar as son, brother, father, grandfather because we all
come from the same seed, we are all part of the same oak's acorn.
is the blink of an eye. Marines who have the mission of reporting
the war will continue to die in the future wars, as they have
in past wars. We will not be separated by time, by names, by
ethnicity, by religion, by our political preferences.
Marine Combat Correspondents,
either with pens or photos, are all children of the same mother.
I was part of the
first thirteen U.S. Marine Combat Correspondents picked to report
a war that hadn't yet been started. I met the colonel who picked
us. He told us he had the selection team in boot camp announce
if anyone who was a college drop out had any writing experience
to raise their hand.
So did thirteen
others in a two month period, and we were all slotted to be
the first Marine Combat Correspondent crew slated for Vietnam.
The colonel told me his logic for picking us: "I was at
Headquarters Marine Corps at the time," he said. "I
had this idea. Let's get guys who dropped out of college who
can write. That's what we need."
The colonel was
in command of the tank battlion for the 1st Marine Divison.
But tanks failed in the jungles because of the muck, so he was
disappointed in his command, but proud of his "Marine Combat
I went on more than
100 combat missions. Like my brother Salazar, I wanted to be
at the front edge of everything. That's where the action was
and the news was the action.
Cpl. Salazar, I wanted to be at the front edge of the
I related to how
Salazar stuck his camera up close, and chose not to use his
I served in Vietnam
from 1965 to 1966, returned home and finished college with a
degree in journalism. I was a freelance writer for a number
of years and then got into big business, and roamed the world
as a top executive, the senior vice president of marketing for
a company that generated $50 billion-a-year in sales.
It was a long way
from a foxhole filled with water during monsoon season with
leeches plugged into every pore they could find.
I thought I had
hung up my Combat Correspondent days until September 11, 2001.
I ran toward the World
Trade Center to be on 'the front line'
I was living in
New York City writing my memoirs about Vietnam and my experience
as Marine journalist reporting the war from the inside out.
I looked up that
fateful second Tuesday of September and saw the silver belly
of a jet screaming overhead. The hair on the back of my neck
stiffened. I shut my computer and stood up. Just then the plane
slammed into the World Trade Center. I ran toward it.
The instincts of
a Combat Correspondent don't change much. It was as though I
heard incoming fire and was running toward it to get the first
hand story, to report on the bravery and courage of Marines
fighting and dying for people they didn't know, to protect a
land they had no connection with try and maintain a fabric of
freedom, a strand of it, a stitch of it.
in the glorious attempts my fellow comrades and I made
for freedom in Vietnam
Despite all the
slime slung at me and all other veterans of Vietnam during the
60's and 70's, and even unto today when I watch the hatred and
vehemence of war protestors spewing out their anger against
those who fought an unpopular war in an unpopular country under
an unpopular administration in a divided nation, I have never
surrendered my belief in the glorious attempt my fellow comrades
and I made to implant freedom in Vietnam.
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