Marine prepares for return to Iraq

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Arthur Salazar is not worried about the fighting or the potential dangers that lurk along roadsides in Iraq while he’s escorting vehicles to their destinations.

It doesn’t even worry him that some of his best friends might not make it back.

“It’s a part of life. You just hope and pray its not you,” Salazar, 21, said.

The only thing that worries him about heading to Iraq next month for the second time is being away from his family.

When he leaves today to return to his base in Camp Pendleton, Calif., to train before his departure, he is leaving behind his wife, Yesenia, 22 — who he has been dating since he was 14 — and two beautiful children, 4-year-old Elijah and 1-year-old Annavey, he said.

“It is really hard to go away and have to see their faces for the last time for probably six months or so,” Salazar said. “My son is starting to get what’s going on, which is even harder.”

For the past month while home on leave, he has devoted all of his time to his family, he said.

“My parents have horses and we’ve been taking the kids out there to see them,” the Lake Jackson native said.

Salazar said they have done a lot of visiting.“We’ve had huge family dinners every night,” he said.

His wife and children live with him on base at Camp Pendleton, but are staying in Jones Creek with her parents while he is away.

“It’s his second time to go off, but it’s not any easier,” Yesenia Salazar said. “What is really tough is having to stay back while he’s in California.”

While leaving his family is difficult, he is in a career that he loves and has wanted to do since high school.

Salazar, who graduated from Brazoswood High School in 2004, was inspired to join the armed forces after he found out his uncle, U.S. Marine Cpl. Eddie Joe Hernandez, was a veteran of the Vietnam War, he said.

“I wanted to serve my country and be a part of history like he was,” Salazar said.

He joined the Marines right after graduation and was stationed with his wife at Camp Pendleton until his first deployment to Fallujah, Iraq, in February 2006. He returned from his first tour that September.

Since he last was in Iraq, his friends have told him everything in the country has calmed, he said.

“I think we are doing good over there,” he said. “The majority of the people there do want us to help them.”

Being able to see the change the United States has made to Iraq is what keeps Salazar’s spirits up, he said.

He has only 10 months left of his service, but plans to re-enlist, he said.

“I will probably make a career out of it,” Salazar said. “I want my kids to grow up and see that I served my country and made a difference.”

Even with hard times ahead of being without her husband, Yesenia Salazar said she continues to back him 100 percent.

“It is always what he has wanted to do and I can’t wait for his return,” she said.