WASHINGTON - Walking away from the national World War II Memorial, John Salazar paused at a small building with computer kiosks.
The congressman from Manassa scrolled through one of the screens, which lists all Americans who served in the war.
"That's my dad," Salazar said to two of his staff members, pointing to Henry S. Salazar.
Salazar had just finished meeting with veterans who flew from Grand Junction to see the memorial in Washington, D.C. He spent 20 minutes listening to their concerns, took a moment to think of his dad and later said the event was more meaningful than just a photo opportunity.
It's part of a typically busy day in Washington.
Long days in Washington
Salazar's day began at 5 a.m. and an hourlong workout on the treadmill at his condominium, 14 blocks from his Washington office building. He ate breakfast at Tortilla Coast, a local Tex-Mex restaurant, as part of a morning meeting with colleagues in the Blue Dog Coalition, a collection of moderate-to-conservative House Democrats committed to maintaining fiscal responsibility and national security.
He arrived at his office at 9 a.m. Several meetings, a speech and the trip to the memorial followed.
After lunch, he attended five more meetings and cast three votes in the afternoon. His day ended late in the evening after attending several Cinco de Mayo celebration receptions throughout Washington, including one at the White House.
"It was a fairly typical and productive day," said Eric Wortman, communications director for Salazar.
Salazar has lived in the same condo since being elected to the House of Representatives in 2004. He shared the home-away-from home with his younger brother, former U.S. Senator and current secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, for the first four years. Ken Salazar's family recently returned to Denver, so the Interior secretary may be moving back with John.
"We'll see," John said.
Inside the Capitol
The congressman's office is located in the Cannon House Office Building, one of three office buildings for House members. Salazar's eight-person Washington staff fits cozily into three rooms.
The office walls now have significant water damage near the ceiling after the massive snowstorm in February that buried Washington beneath 40 inches and closed federal buildings in Washington for an unprecedented four consecutive days.
During that week, Salazar was unable to fly back to Washington and remained in his home district.
Inside the congressman's personal office, a stuffed elk head stares stoically above the doorway.
"We call him Isgar" because the elk was captured on the ranch of former Colorado state Sen. Jim Isgar, Salazar said.
More than 15 framed images line the room, including several of his family and his parents, and images of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, two of his favorite presidents. Salazar said one of his favorite pictures in his office is a portrait of his father painted within a year of his death.
After a briefing by a staff member, he walked down two flights of stairs to a meeting room where about 70 people from the Colorado Rural Electric Association were crowded inside and another 15 or so stuck outside.
Salazar addressed the group for about 10 minutes, explaining his vote against the climate-change bill, which he said was in part because of the bill would raise utility rates. He also discussed his vote on health care and its effect on lowering the national debt.
"When we look at the numbers and we look at what health-care reform does, there's no way that we can begin to even look forward to balancing the budget unless we address the issue of health-care reform," he said afterward.
Immediately after the speech, Salazar rode in his red 2000 Mazda compact to the World War II Memorial, driven by a staff member and accompanied by two others.
"The whole trip was one awe-inspiring moment after another, and having him there was another awe-inspiring moment," said Kris Baugh, vice president of Western Slope Honor Flight, of Salazar meeting the 101 veterans and 74 guardians.
The Honor Flight program is a national organization striving to help World War II veterans make the trip to the memorial in their lifetimes.
Salazar met with many veterans and guardians, taking pictures and speaking with the men and women.
However, not all of the Honor Flight participants were excited about Salazar's appearance. One guardian, who wished to remain anonymous, said Salazar was "just a typical politician." The man said last year's guest left a better impression.
"When Bob Dole was here, it was wonderful," he said.
Salazar said he is cognizant of the national mood, and that Democrats may lose a few seats in the House this November, but he would not let it dictate his campaign in the upcoming midterm election.
"I'm not a politician, I'm a public servant, and if the people will have me, that's fine; if they don't, that's fine. I have a big ranch, a beautiful ranch to go back to, so I don't worry about those things so much," he said. Later adding, "I do enjoy my job; I love working for the constituents of the 3rd Congressional District."
Salazar represents nearly 615,000 people spanning about 54,000 square miles.
At the entry gate to the Cannon office building, Salazar talked with his friend, a Capitol Police guard. As the guard customarily does, he told Salazar a joke: "You're American when you go into the bathroom; you're American when you leave the bathroom. But what are you when you're in the bathroom?"
After Salazar had no response, the guard revealed that "You're-A-Peein' (European)." Salazar laughed after hearing the punch line and later told the joke to staff memers back at the office.
He spent a few minutes signing letters of recognition to young Boy and Girl Scouts who had just made Eagle Scout. Salazar said he was never a Boy Scout as a child because "I lived too far out on the farm. All we ever did was work."
With the letters and certificates complete, Salazar made his way downstairs and through the underground tunnel system linking the House office buildings to the U.S. Capitol Building to a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus.
He said he sometimes carries a pedometer, measuring how far he walks in a given day and clocked the highest total at about 11 miles. Salazar does all of his walking wearing black cowboy boots with his suit and slacks.
Salazar hosted several meetings in his office after the caucus meeting and lunch. In one meeting, Salazar met with representatives of the sheep industry to discuss several topics, including how the sheep industry, like other agriculture businesses, can provide more jobs and help relieve the current economy.
Clint Krebs, an Oregon sheep farmer and secretary-treasurer for the advocacy group the American Sheep Industry Association, said he was impressed by Salazar during the meeting.
"Sometimes you go to meetings and you meet with congressmen and you don't feel like they really care, they're just writing down notes. I felt like he was genuinely interested in the fact that we were there and our concerns," Krebs said.
At the end of their meeting, Salazar told the sheep industry group, "I'll continue fighting for you as best I can."
After the final meeting, Salazar met with a constituent family in town for a White House function and prepared to go to the floor of the House of Representatives to vote. On his way to the Capitol Building, Salazar submitted the final draft of the Chimney Rock bill that seeks to designate the area a national monument, which he introduced to Congress the week before.
"I do know that this will help preserve a crown jewel in Southwest Colorado. From my perspective, it's really important, and I think we'll be able to move that through quickly," he said.
Checking in with family
While on the floor, Salazar voted in favor of motions to suspend the rules and agree to the bills, as amended, which is a parliamentary procedure used to help pass noncontroversial bills more quickly. For example, one of those bills had to do with making a temporary judgeship in Hawaii a permanent position.
The votes left Salazar little time in his office before having to leave around 4:30 p.m. to attend the White House Cinco de Mayo celebration. Salazar said he enjoyed the event but had to leave early to attend two other Cinco de Mayo events held by fellow members of Congress.
Salazar made it back to his condo around 9 that evening. He called his wife and mother to see how their days went. On that night, like any other evening in Washington, he went to bed around 10:30 p.m.
Salazar will generally spend Monday afternoon through Thursday evening or Friday morning in Washington, depending on the vote schedule. During those days, he can put in a 16-hour day but said he enjoys working hard.
"I love to represent the most beautiful district in the entire country," Salazar said. "That's what makes my job fun, because I do have such a pretty district, and it's a diverse district, and it's a challenge trying to figure out where you find a balance between development and between preserving the beauty of the district."
Jeremy Walsh is an intern from American University in Washington, D.C. Reach him at email@example.com .