Veteran Showcase: Don Salazar stays busy

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Don Salazar
Veteran Don Salazar is a doting father to his young daughter Sophia. Anza Valley Outlook/Joanne Salazar photo

Marine Corps veteran Don Salazar is well known in Anza for his volunteer work with the Hamilton K-8 School parent, teacher and student association and his support of local Little League and soccer teams. He and his wife Joanne also have a small sign-making business, donating unique products to community raffles and school events.

Salazar was born and raised in Cortez, Colorado, and moved to Grand Junction, Colorado, as a high school junior. He attempted to join the Air Force at age 21.

“They turned me down because of a ticket for fighting in public,” he said. “The Marine Corps recruiter asked me as I walked past his office why I was turned down and I told him. He said, ‘Well hell, we give medals for that!’ I signed papers the next day. It was the best thing ever to happen to me at that time of my life. I have never had one regret in joining.”

Salazar’s job was a field artillery cannoneer. As a member of a field artillery howitzer battery, cannoneers prepare artillery pieces and equipment for transport, combat and firing. They inspect and prepare the ammunition and the weapon for firing. They estimate elevation and deflection, load the piece and handle the ammunition.

These Marines also perform preventive maintenance on the equipment and clean artillery pieces. They make routine tests and authorize repairs and work to ensure that their position is camouflaged. It is their job to protect the weapons and other equipment from chemical warfare agents. They’re also tasked with constructing fortifications.

“I served in the United States Marine Corps from 1983 through 1987,” he said. “Most of my time was served at Camp Pendleton, California. I did do a six-month West Pac float on the Navy ship USS Peleliu. We went to the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Hawaii.”

Salazar said he is still in touch with a lot of the Marines that he served with, thanks to Facebook.

“The only thing I kind of regret is that I was in the Marines during peacetime and never served in combat. I respect all those that have served in combat. Being in the Marines made me the man I am today,” he said.

After the Marine Corps, Salazar was hired by the city of Oceanside, working there for 27 years.

“I did asphalt, concrete and heavy equipment for the city,” he said. “I was heavily involved in the Oceanside City Employees Union Teamsters for the over 300 city employees. I served as vice president and then president for over 15 years. I retired in 2015.”

Salazar and his wife are involved serving with Anza’s youth in sports and school.

Having met Joanne in the 1990s, they were married in 2011. They have lived in Anza since 2005.

“I have known Joanne since the 1990s. I bought a horse from her ex-husband at a horse sale not knowing who he was. She had a catering truck that used to stop at my yard. It’s a running joke that it cost me a 50-cent doughnut every morning. We both had marriages that ended and several months later we ran into each other at the Stampede in Temecula. We’ve been together ever since,” Salazar said.

The couple have two boys each, ages 28-39. Two sons are married, and they have two granddaughters.

“And then there is our awesome daughter Sophia, 8 years old,” Salazar said. “She came as a surprise to us and is the love of our lives. We were a little shell-shocked when we found out we were going to have a child at our age. She is why I do all my volunteering with Hamilton K-8 PTSA, soccer and baseball up here in Anza. I am known by the kids as Mr. Don or Coach. It makes me smile when I hear them yell at me. I am sometimes told I need to get on my honey-do list at home and not spend so much time at school. But I feel that I need to stay involved with the kids up here.”

Salazar plans to do what he can to keep his daughter busy, he said. The family loves camping trips, sports and community events.

“We do Disneyland and Universal Studios, so it keeps Sophia occupied. My personal getaway is to hunt in several different states in the fall. My passion is bow hunting. That is my escape from the world for a little bit of time during the year,” he said.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.