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A peace activist recounts life with her husband, Marine Corporal Daniel Mark MacMurray

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative to share the stories of service members and their families. And on this Memorial Day weekend, memories of Marine Corporal Daniel Mark MacMurray. His widow, Cynthia Alvarez, recently sat down for StoryCorps to talk about the early days of their relationship. Back then, it didn't always seem like they were a perfect match.

CYNTHIA ALVAREZ: At first, I was shocked that I was dating a man who was Marine Corps because I'm a peace activist. But our first date, I learned so much about him on that day. Dan enlisted in the Marines immediately after he graduated from high school. It was 1981 in North Carolina. He was hardcore sometimes, and I think that was the military training. I remember him yelling. And I said, well, we're not having any of that here; in our house, we speak with gentle words. Eventually, he started to adapt.

And that was the Dan I loved - the kind man, the man who would drive for hours just to get me a gluten-free meal. And we loved good food. If anybody knows Dan, Dan loved his pizza. He loved his pretzels. He was like a big kid. I didn't always agree with him, clearly, but we agreed on loving each other.

Later on, he got sick. When he went to the doctor, they said he had, like, a blood cancer. And then one night we were watching a documentary about Camp Lejeune, how water contamination had poisoned many of the military personnel there. Camp Lejeune is where he went to basic training. We looked at each other, and we knew that something was connected to his illness because if you would come to our kitchen table, it was lined up with just pill after pill after pill. And sometimes it was grueling for him.

But some of the men in his platoon, they started going to different cemeteries where Marine Corps veterans were buried and paying homage to them. And the last visit he did before he died, he went to Camp Lejeune. It was almost as if he knew, this is the way it started. Maybe it was his way of saying goodbye. He died still loving the Marines. The Marine Corps gave me a wonderful man, but they also took my man.

He wanted to be buried on November 10, the Marine Corps birthday. And I will honor him always on that day. The last time I went to visit, I took pretzels and I took a iced tea, and I sat there with him. He was just 60 years old. He was a gentleman and a gentle man to me. And I feel that his spirit will be with me for a very, very long time, probably to my dying day.

SIMON: Cynthia Alvarez for StoryCorps in Philadelphia. Her husband, Corporal Daniel Mark MacMurray, died September 12, 2023, and her interview is archived at the Library of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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