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Eleven trees added to Warriors Walk
Trees salute fallen soldiers
Margaret Ruiz, mother of Pfc. Bruce Salazar Jr., in black, tries to fight back tears at her son’s ceremony. Salazar’s aunt, Dolores Ruiz, center, and grandmother, Sara Salazar, far right, also weep. - photo by Photo by Andrea Washington


The 3rd Infantry Division honors 11 soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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Growing up across the street from an armed forces recruiting office in Modesto, Calif., the values of military service were instilled in Bruce Salazar Jr. by the time he was 8. He spent hours talking to recruiters from every branch of the military and his mother, Margaret Ruiz, knew one day her only son would dedicate his life to being a soldier.
The 24-year-old member of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team got a chance to live his dream, but his life was cut short by the war in Iraq. He and 10 other members of the 3rd ID were memorialized at a ceremony on Warriors Walk on Thursday.
Even though he was a child, Salazar was the man of a house filled with five younger sisters. He saw serving the country as a way to provide for the women in his family and make them proud at the same time.
His road to service, however, took a detour when he fell into the wrong crowd in high school, dropped out and moved to Arkansas with his best friend. After working with a lumber company for a while, Salazar decided to enlist in the U.S. Army in 2005. He moved to Tracy, Calif., earned his high school equivalency degree and became a born-again Christian.
Although just a private first class by July, Salazar was already planning his path to moving up in both rank and service to the nation. He had memorized the guide to becoming a sergeant in the Army and mapped out a future career as a Navy fighter pilot.
Salazar was killed along with Cpl. Kory D. Wiens, 20, of Independence, Ore. and an explosives-sniffing dog when an improvised explosive device was detonated while they were on patrol in Muhammad Sath, Iraq, on July 6.
Ruiz could not fight the tears streaming down her face Thursday morning when her son and the other soldiers were remembered during the tree dedication ceremony on Fort Stewart’s Warriors Walk.
“Private First Class Bruce Salazar Jr. held duty and loyalty in the highest regard as a soldier. Bruce was a happy soldier who enjoyed getting dirty while doing his job as an infantryman,” 3rd ID rear detachment commander Lt. Col. Paul B. Gale II said. “His smile was uplifting, keeping his platoon’s morale high. Nothing could bring down his spirits...Bruce’s soaring spirit and determination will always be remembered.”
Tree dedication ceremonies pay homage to soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan while assigned or attached to the 3rd ID.
Engraved granite markers and Eastern Redbud trees planted in honor of each soldier along Warriors Walk, a living memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, are unveiled during the observance.
Thursday’s ceremony brings the number of memorialized soldiers to 359.
Surrounded by one of her daughters, her sister and Salazar’s grandmother, Ruiz made a sorrowful walk to her son’s dedicated tree and engraved stone. All four women wept as she laid a flower at the foot of the marker.
Although media access to families was blocked for the first time since the ceremonies began in 2003, the image of the women in Salazar’s life huddled at his tree and mourning did not need any words to indicate the young soldier will be missed.

Here’s the list of 3rd ID soldiers honored during Thursday’s tree ceremony:
- Staff Sgt. Michael D. Moody Jr., 31, Va.
- Sgt. Chris L. Davis, 35, Lubbock, Texas
- Pfc. Henry G. Byrd III, 20, Veguita, N.M.
- Sgt. Carter A. Gamble Jr., 24, Brownstown, Ind.
- Pvt. Shane M. Stinson, 23, Fullerton, Calif.
- Sgt. Gene L. Lamie, 25, Homerville, Ga.
- Pfc. Le Ron A. Wilson, 18, Queens, N.Y.
- Pfc. Bruce C. Salazar Jr., 24, Tracy, Calif.
- Sgt. Thomas P. McGee, 23, Hawthorne, Calif.
- Sgt. Courtney T. Johnson, 26, of Garner, N.C.
- Sgt. Allen A. Greka, 29, of Alpena, Mich.

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