Maria L. Salazar was born in Peru in 1980. In 1992, her family relocated to the United States. Her father Jose Salazar, mother Maria Vasquez and sister Sandy and Andrea settled in Bridgewater, NJ, where she attended and graduated high school in 1998. Salazar earned an associate degree for Paralegal Studies from Raritan Valley Community College in 2000.
Following the heinous acts of 9/11, Salazar enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. She completed boot camp in Parris Island, SC from May to August 2002. She graduated from Marine Combat Training in Camp Geiger, NC and was awarded the Honor Grad from Maintenance Management School at Camp Johnson, NC earning the meritorious rank of Lance Corporal Veteran. In November of 2002, Salazar reported to her first unit, 6th Motor Transport Battalion, H&S Co, in Redbank, NJ. Her military occupation was logistics specialist.
Salazar’s unit was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in January 2003, an eight-month deployment, she turned 23 years old while being deployed. Salazar was honorably discharged in 2011 with the rank of Sgt, E-5, having served nine years.
Upon entering the civilian sector, Salazar became a fitness and dance instructor, based mostly in central New Jersey. Salazar relocated to Maspeth, Queens in 2012, with her spouse Nathan Jefferson and daughter Alyssa. The following year, 2013, the family welcomed the arrival of twins Izabella and Nathanyel. Salazar and her family moved to Port Washington in 2015, and have been making it their home ever since.
In 2016 Salazar attended Long Island University in Brookville where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in art therapy with a focus in ceramics and art history. She graduated on May 10 with honors and also was inducted into SALUTE, a Veterans National Honor Society for outstanding academic achievement.
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 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.
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. Salazar volunteers with many community veteran organizations such as Team RWB, VFW, Marine Corps League, Veteran Artist Program, Women Veteran Artist Project.
Submitted by Debbie Tedeschi, webmaster and photographer for the Port Washington VFW.