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Mark Salazar's Character and Compassion Remembered by Friends

Friends and neighbors ponder what went wrong and believe that a serious misunderstanding took place that led up to the death of their beloved friend.

One week after being , close friends and peers have come forward to share about the person they knew and loved. They called him a soldier who would never bring harm to anyone, who led a life of service. Friends are hoping for some answers soon to clear his name.

Staff Sgt. Mark Salazar, a graphic illustrator for the Army Special Operations Command's 4th Military Information Support Group, is already missed and the circumstances surrounding his death have left many perplexed.

"I worked with a few years ago and he was not the kind of person to disobey a directive. I am not sure what happened that early morning but I do know that this man accomplished a great many things because of his discipline and attention to detail," said Victor Gardner, a close friend. "Eating 'Rice Crispy Treats' and the ability to draw, take pictures to tell the story of an event is what he did best and liked to do. His child was his light and inspiration to move forward in his career. Salazar's life positively impacted more people than the average person, because of the type of person he was." 

"Reading about the occurrence that night saddens me to my core. Mark was a stand up guy...quiet to newcomers..definitely an observer..extremely level headed..funny..and never perceived by anyone as a threat. His character is totally opposite from what he has been accused of," said a friend, Dionna Moore. "Everyone that knew him is beyond shocked that this is how he went. Extremely taken aback that someone so amazing could ever be perceived in this light...this was not his role..he ABSOLUTELY wasn't a gun shooting gangster..or a hot headed trigger happy soldier..he was a neighbor, a friend, a father, and someone's son."

Another anonymous friend who grew up on the same street as Mark Salazar wanted others to know that Salazar would be the exact soldier, friend, mentor, son, schoolmate, co-worker...that they have all lost. His friend hates reading that any of this even happened knowing that he has never, nor was a trouble maker, but yet a boy that over the years grew into a loving, gentle, mature man.

"Whichever officer shot him, I pity him," said Salazar's friend. "He took a great man away from so many who loved him for the person he was and was growing to be.This is sincerely such a shame. I stand firm in the belief that there had to be some misunderstanding."

"There is not one single person that knows Mark that would agree to the comment made: "he aimed his gun towards the officers". Yet that is neither here or there now... I write this email to shine some light on a person known and loved by everyone. I hope that people hear about this story and also come forth with more knowledge about this man we lost," he said.

Professional peer, Samantha Ciaramitaro says Salazar was her professional mentor. "SSG Mark Salazar was an amazing leader and an amazing friend. He was a mentor to myself and many others. I will never believe the story of what happened with mark. A police officer can see more dead bodies and go through more than a soldier in his own home environment... Police forces have been corrupt before... so who says that they don't have PTSD and flipped, Who says they didn't bribe so called witnesses that there was and now there are none, Who says that someone just blamed the random shots on mark because he was of a different ethnicity, or because he was a large built guy? Who was there.... I am from a place where someone always sees what is going on if you hear a shot most people hide but the others watch.  There is someone out there who knows what really happens. I don't know a single person who dislikes Mark. We are a small field in the military, Graphic artists, combat documentation production specialists, broadcast journalists and photojournalists. We all go through the same school house and we all run into each other through out our years in service weather we are active, reserves, national guard or Army, Airforce, Marines, Navy or Coast Guard. we all run into each other we all work together at some point or another, and anyone who has ever got blessed with working with mark will say the same thing, Loving, Caring, Teacher. He didn't just know his job but he knew ours he was Knowledgeable of the army and of all of are jobs, Mark was my mentor! I never saw him throw a fit or get angry... we all get aggravated  at the military and that's all I ever saw from him. There are many news reports out there and I don't believe any of them."

Salazar's Accolades

Salazar was born in Germany and grew up in Fayetteville.  He attended Pembroke University on a basketball scholarship and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications and Journalism in 2007.

He entered the U.S. Army in August 2007 as a Combat Documentary Production Specialist and later transitioned to Multi-Media Illustrator. 

Salazar's first duty assignment was with the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera) at Fort Meade, Md., from October 2008 to March 2011.  He served as a Combat Documentary Specialist and Multi-Media Illustrator.  He completed two combat tours in Afghanistan from 2008 -2009. 

In April 2011 he was assigned to 7th Military Information Support Battalion (Airborne), where he served as a Senior Multi-Media Illustrator.

Salazar's military education includes the Warrior Leader Course, Basic Airborne School, Army Combatives Level I-III, Air Assault Course, Digital Multi-Media Course, and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) 225.

Salazar's awards and decorations include the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Superior Unit Award, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, and the NATO Medal.  He also earned the Combat Action Badge, Basic Parachutist Badge, and Air Assault Badge.

Salazar is survived by his four year old son, Malik A. Salazar of Jacksonville, Fla.  He was preceded in death by his mother, Olive Faye Owens-Salazar of Pelzer, S.C., and his father, Mark L. Salazar of Butte, Mont.

Ro May 16, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Mark truly was a great person! He was a true example of unconditional love. He would do anything for anyone. He always put others before himself and always strived for excellence. He was the individual we all aspired to be. He was a friend and a brother! He is missed dearly! Rest In Paradise Sal.
alicia m May 16, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Its extremely hard to c ur name in my fone.... Oneday i Will have the strength to delete it.... For now, all i can do is stare at it in disbelief.... Ur smile Will b missed...
Venessa H May 16, 2012 at 06:32 PM
We could all wish to be loved so much by so many when we pass... Sal, we will tell them who you really are. Were. :'(
Melinda Johnson May 16, 2012 at 06:46 PM
There was so much good in this Man. His manners, his smile, his hugs, and his quiet sense are just a few things about him that made people love or like him. Sal, I will miss running into you in random places and you will be missed forever...RIP Mark keep us all wrapped in your great hugs as we will keep you wrapped up in our hearts
La'Keisha Gomes May 16, 2012 at 06:59 PM
A wonderful man is in Heaven. I am thankful to have known you & spent time growing up with you in Fayetteville. I love you BLESS you for all the BLESSINGS you poured upon others. May your son be just like his daddy. MUAH!!!!! La'Keisha R. Gomes
Kelly Twedell May 16, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Thank you all for coming forward to speak on Mark's behalf. It is a shame and I hope for some answers from local authorities.
Felicia McCall May 16, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Truly a Great man has been taken away. He always knew the right words to say and he gave hugs that last forever. Coming to Fayetteville will never be the same but I will always remember all the fun times we had. For all the lives you touched and people you embraced, we will forever miss you. I love you and Rest In Peace!!
Michelle May 16, 2012 at 10:05 PM
I grew up with Mark, we went to the same school and played together as kids. He was always a good guy, never a trouble maker. I still can't believe this happened to him. I hope the authorities actually look into his death. I hope they understand that he was a good guy and the report just doesn't add up. Michelle Meade
Brian Lehnhardt May 16, 2012 at 11:00 PM
As his former platoon Sgt in 2009, I always found Mark a level headed guy who loved his craft and being in the Army. He never questioned orders, always was first to volunteer for the hard jobs, and was a peer leader in the platoon. He was the kind of guy who would give you not only the shirt off his back if you needed it, but his house and his last slice of bread if that's what it took. I knew from the start he was going places in the Army by his attitude and drive. Our community of Army Signal Visual Information professionals have lost a great Soldier. I will certainly miss him and honor his memory.
Shenita Denson May 16, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Mark!!! I know you're smiling down right now by all of the love you've been receiving. It hurts and we're all searching for answers on what went down the night you were shot but I realize we may never know and have to find comfort in God's purpose behind this. The legacy that you're leaving behind will last forever. You have inspired me to live my life in ways that will positively impact others, like you have. How amazing is it when absolutely no one has anything negative to say about you? Can I be like you when I grow up! I love you angel. I miss you more. This is really testing my spiritual growth but I know that through death, your spirit lives. You're still impacting lives-always will. Just like I can't see God but I know He lives...is your spirit. You're in my heart, alive, always. I don't care what the cops say...we know what it is and God knows. Muah. (Shenita Denson)
Michelle Owen May 17, 2012 at 11:18 AM
Mark, you are truly missed and loved by so many. You were always there when people needed help. The first time I meet you I knew right away what a great man you were. You were there for my husband when he became a first time father and calmed his fears. We will miss you but you will never really be gone as you will live on always in the hearts and memories of all who were blessed to know you. R.I.P Mark. Remember me... When flowers bloom early in the spring REMEMBER ME on sunny days In the fun summer brings REMEMBER ME in the fall As you wall through leaves of gold In the winter time REMEMBER ME In the stories that are told But most of all REMEMBER Each day right from the start I will be FOREVER near For I live within your HEART
Nina Egorova May 25, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Dear, Dear Mark! I met him first in 2009 Fort Jackson, SC at a Basic Combat Training, since that time I knew him as a dearest friend of my son Victor. I believe he was one of the nicest young men I have ever seen in my life. Mark, honey, you are such a great loss for my son all our family and friends who met and liked you very much. I know, you are in a Haven now, my dear boy, rest in peace we will pray for your sweet soul. We love you and will miss you endlessly.
Deborah Bougard June 04, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Deborah Bougard 13:20 pm on June 4, 2012 My Dear Mark, I met you when your family moved to Middlecreek. You played some basketball in our yard and our son, Courtney played with you and your dad. I watched you grow into a fine young man, good son, father, and such a polite neighbor. Always that handsome smile, never rude. My heart is so heavy because I don't believe that you deserved to get shot. My prayer is that God will let the truth come to light. I will not rest until there is justice for you, Mark. R.I.P. Mark, and I will always love you!!!
ms riley June 08, 2012 at 09:49 AM
Markie, our hearts are heavy and I pray that what ever happened that entire night "leading up to your death comes out ,things just don't add up and anybody that knows you can say you were a good guy . You may be gone but never forgotten.... May god bring peace and answers to our family ......

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