Maria L. Salazar (Post ’19, B.A. in Art Therapy), a U.S. Marine Corp veteran, has been picked by Port Washington’s VFW Post to be the Grand Marshal in the 2019 Memorial Day Parade.
“We are all so proud of her. I can’t say enough good things about her,” said John Baptisto Fiore, commander of VFW Post 1819.
Salazar is currently the Junior Vice Commander for VFW Post 1819 in Port Washington, as well as the Madam Commandant for the Father Vincent Capodanno Marine Corps League Detachment in Manhasset.
“It’s a great honor for me to be nominated by my fellow veterans, especially because I’m young and I’m a female veteran,” said Salazar. “It makes it that much more special to me because I feel that they respect me and they accept me.”
Born in Peru in 1980, Salazar moved to the United States with her family in 1992 and settled in Bridgewater, N.J. After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Salazar enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.
According to the VFW, she completed boot camp in Parris Island, S.C., the following August. She graduated from Marine Combat Training in Camp Geiger, N.C., and was given the Honor Grad award from Maintenance Management School at Camp Johnson, N.C., where she earned the meritorious rank of Lance Corporal Veteran. In November 2002, Salazar reported to her first unit, 6th Motor Transport Battalion, H&S Co., in Redbank, N.J. Her military occupation was logistics specialist.
In January 2003, Salazar’s unit was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. An eight-month deployment, she turned 23 years old while being deployed. In 2011, having served nine years, Salazar was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant, E-5.
Upon entering the civilian sector, Salazar became a fitness and dance instructor, based mostly in central New Jersey. In 2012, Salazar moved to Maspeth, Queens, with her spouse Nathan Jefferson and daughter Alyssa. The following year, the family welcomed the arrival of twins, Izabella and Nathanyel. In 2015, Salazar and her family made Port Washington their home.
In 2016 Salazar enrolled at LIU Post, where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in art therapy with a focus in ceramics and art history. She graduated on May 10, 2019, with honors and also was inducted into SALUTE, a Veterans National Honor Society for outstanding academic achievement.
“The reason why I decided to go back for art therapy was because one of my corporals committed suicide,” she explained. “We had no idea that he was feeling that way. So, that pushed me to go back. I totally believe in the motto of the Marine Corps, which is Semper Fidelis. I want to continue to serve my veteran community.”
Salazar plans to pursue her master’s in art therapy and counseling from LIU Post in the fall. Her goal is to provide much needed support to the veteran population battling mental health wounds.
Salazar was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Sea Service Deployment Medal, and The Marine Corps Overseas Service Medal, as well as a Presidential Unit Citation. Besides being active in her local VFW Post, Salazar volunteers with many community veteran organizations such as Team RWB, Marine Corps League, Veteran Artists Program, and the Women Veterans Art Project.
The Port Washington Memorial Day parade starts at 10 a.m. on May 27 at the Paul D. Schreiber Senior High School on Campus Drive and heads down Main Street to the Town Dock.