Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bruce C. Salazar Jr. dies 'of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device'

A Modesto soldier has been killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, his mother said Monday.

Army Pfc. Bruce Salazar Jr., 24, is the 21st soldier from the Northern San Joaquin Valley to die in the war on terrorism. He died Friday.

Margaret Susan "Suzie" Ruiz of Modesto said she had no further details about her son's death, and that the Army told her the investigation was ongoing. She said five other soldiers and two Marines died the same day.

Salazar's body is expected to be returned to the United States within 72hours. The family will announce memo-rial plans then.

Ruiz said representatives came to her home Friday evening to inform her. "I knew when I saw them. They didn't have to say anything. They don't just come around for nothing."

Ruiz said her son joined the Army in 2005. "He was going to make a career out of it. Eventually, he wanted to become a pilot."

She wasn't surprised by his career choice. "Even as a little kid, he loved to hang around the (recruiting) offices of the Army and Marines. I knew one day he would join the military."

Salazar was stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga., before being deployed to Iraq on May 11.

Ruiz last had contact with her son three weeks ago. "He called on a Monday," she recalled. "He didn't want to talk about what was happening there. He just wanted news about his family and friends. He asked for a mitt so he could play catch."

Ruiz quickly mailed the baseball glove and was planning to send a book on becoming a pilot.

"He was a good kid with a big smile. He was always there when I needed him. He was there for everybody," his mother said.

Ruiz said her son always was ready to defend the United States. "He didn't understand why he was there (in Iraq), but he was going to fight for his country. He didn't agree with what was happening there, but he was still willing to fight."

Ruiz said she doesn't see any good purpose in Iraq either. "We don't know who we're fighting in Iraq, and it's all booby-trapped. They ought to bring our troops home.

"Those people (in the Middle East) have been fighting each other for thousands of years. It's in the Bible. We're not going to change it. It will never end."

Salazar split time growing up between Modesto and Corona in Southern California. He attended Davis High School as a freshman and sophomore.

In addition to his mother, Salazar is survived by his father, Bruce Salazar Sr. of Corona; sister, Alicia Salazar; and four half-sisters in Southern California.

From the Modesto Bee