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MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Cpl. Alexander Salazar, with Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, will compete in the Marine Corps Trials at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California March 2-9. Salazar, a native of San Antonio, Texas, will participate in bowling and golfing, but expects to be most competitive in swimming and archery.

Photo by Lance Cpl Ned Johnson

Wounded warrior athlete: opportunity meets determination

3 Mar 2016 | Lance Cpl. Ned Johnson Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Cpl. Alexander Salazar, a warrior athlete with Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, can be found one of two places most days — the archery range on base or the pool at WWBN-E.

            Salazar, who has been assigned to WWBN-E since August, will compete in the Marine Corps Trials at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California March 2-9.

            While he will participate in golfing and bowling, he expects to be competitive in both swimming and archery.

            “The bow is my favorite weapon — probably from my favorite video game Legend of Zelda,” Salazar said. “It’s difficult, but it’s stress-relieving.

            “I’ve always wanted to do it and didn’t have the chance until I got here,” said Salazar, who was a warehouse clerk before moving to WWBN-E.

            Salazar, who has had multiple surgeries on his left shoulder and left knee and still experiences pain, is most comfortable in the water.

            “On land, it’s a lot harder to lift my arm and there’s extreme pain. I can barely run with my knee, hip and foot,” said Salazar. “The water makes it a lot easier to move them. Everything is being worked out still.”

            Until he arrived at WWBN-E, Salazar rarely swam and admitted he wasn’t good at it, but since then, things have changed.

            “A few months ago, he could doggy-paddle,” said Sarah Gillam, a swim coach with WWBN-E. “He went to the swim camp, and he practices all his skills, focuses and works hard and has mastered all of it.”

            Salazar has improved his 25-meter time by 15 seconds from when he began, which Gillam said is no small feat.

            “It takes a lot of frustration and determination. As you get faster, it gets harder,” Gillam said. “I can show him the technique, but only he can push through and work hard to get better. He has worked his tail off.”

            Salazar also suffers from depression, which stole his love for everything, he said. Now, the opportunities with the battalion have given him a renewed love for life.

            “I’d probably be extremely depressed and wouldn’t know what to do with my life,” said Salazar. “The people here are amazing. They have helped me from day one and tried to push me forward to good things.

            “When I get out, I am going to go to school to become a chef because I have always loved cooking. They always pushed me to find a good school, and I found one that is close to my son.”

            Salazar is honored to have a chance to make one of the teams.

            “I wouldn’t even know what to say. Wow, I didn’t even know I had this in me,” said Salazar. “If I make the team, I am going to go to the archery range or swim 5 times a week or more if I can. I want ti bring us up,  and I don’t want to let the team down.”