The Digital Journalist
Photo by AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
Gloria Salazar, mother of Marine Cpl. William I. Salazar, cries over the coffin of her 26-year-old son in Montebello, California.

Marine Cpl. William Salazar, a combat photographer who was documenting the conflict in Iraq, was the first Marine photographer to die in combat since the Viet Nam War. He was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1st Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. On the left is family member Sammy Acosta.

DOVARGANES: Before this assignment, my access to funeral ceremonies for U.S. servicemen killed in Iraq had been limited to church memorial services or simply copying headshot photos at family homes. The funeral for Marine Cpl. William Salazar was the first time I was permitted to actually document a burial ceremony.

Our work began after a Las Vegas AP member newspaper requested coverage. The Associated Press and a local newspaper were initially granted permission by the Salazar family to document the ceremony, thanks in part to some diligent work by Los Angeles assignment editor Daniel Becker. At the burial I was at first held back by cemetery officials and guards who claimed that the family had requested privacy. Lou Salazar, an uncle of the dead soldier, intervened and led me to the gravesite and the gathered family members.

I quickly shot a few photos as the mother, Gloria Salazar, put a rose on top of her son's coffin. As I worked, a marine approached me and politely questioned my presence at the ceremony , quietly asking me to respect the family's privacy. I moved away from the gravesite.

Marine Cpl. William Salazar you were a combat photographer. You are part of our family. This image is a small effort to remember and acknowledge you.