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Local Soldier Killed in Iraq

by DJ Thursday, Aug. 26, 2004 at 7:31 PM

Cpl. Nicanor Alvarez, 22, was one of four Marines from Camp Pendleton who died Saturday during fighting in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.

Local Soldier Killed...
nicanor_alvarez.jpg, image/jpeg, 300x329

Going on alone

Sandra Alvarez had hoped to start a family with her husband, who was killed in Iraq

01:27 AM PDT on Wednesday, August 25, 2004

By ELENA ARNOLD / The Press-Enterprise

A platinum band with a dazzling diamond encircles Sandra Alvarez's left ring finger.

It's a ring she would rather not be wearing. Not yet, not like this.

Last November, the 21-year-old and her new husband, Marine Cpl. Nicanor Alvarez, chose rings for each other. They vowed to keep their selections a secret from each other and the marriage a secret from family and friends until the 22-year-old Marine returned from his second deployment to Iraq.

On Sunday, a day after two Marines with solemn expressions knocked on her door, Sandra Alvarez retrieved the two boxes and slipped her wedding band onto her hand.

Cpl. Alvarez was one of four Marines from Camp Pendleton who died Saturday during fighting in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Alvarez was assigned to the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division.

The Pacific High School graduate leaves behind a grieving family who will miss his laughter, his easygoing attitude and his humor.

Practical Joker

"He was always full of surprises," said his sister-in-law Lorena Gonzalez. "He was very special, very unique."

Last August, Alvarez had his soon-to-be wife gathered his family at his brother's Colton home. Sandra stuck a videotape in the VCR and everyone listened as Avalrez explained that he wouldn't be coming home for at least another year.

"My sisters were crying," recalled his brother, Ismael Gonzalez.

At the end of the tape, Alvarez admitted that he was actually outside, hiding in the trunk of his car.

"The only thing anybody heard was, 'I'm here and I'm outside,' " said 14-year-old Ismael Gonzalez, Jr., Alvarez's nephew. "Everybody just jumped up and ran screaming outside."

'He Became My Best Friend'

Sandra Alvarez said she met her future husband four years ago at an eatery where they both worked.

Shortly after high school he enlisted in the Marines as a way to earn money for college and she reluctantly accepted his decision. Their relationship grew during his first deployment.

"We wrote every day," she said. "He became my best friend."

When Alvarez returned from Iraq in August 2003, he asked her to marry him.

"He was the man that I always wanted. He never drank, he never smoked and I was the same way. He was my right hand," said Sandra Alvarez. "He was so ambitious, so outgoing, so goodhearted."

Sitting on the couch surrounded by family and friends, her voice became husky as she remembered the man who helped her buy her first car, taught her how to do doughnuts in the Inland Center mall parking lot in his 1988 Ford Mustang and gave her roses the first time he told her he loved her.

"I still have those roses," she said.

Not Supposed to Happen

The day that he was killed, the couple talked about their future.

"We talked about starting a family," she said. "We talked about the chances of us having twins and he said if we had a girl, he wanted to name her Caitlin," she said.

The reality of his death has yet to fully sink in.

"I don't think it will until I officially see that it's him," she said, adding that she has not heard when her husband's body will arrive in San Bernardino. Services have not been scheduled.

Her husband's family remains similarly shocked by the news.

"She was never supposed to see those Marines coming to her door," said Lorena Gonzalez. "We never thought this would happen. We always thought he'd come back and tell us the stories, tell us what he'd seen."

While she struggles to come to terms with her loss, Sandra Alvarez said she will try to remember what her husband told her when they once talked about the possibility that he might be killed.

"He wanted me to finish school," said Alvarez, who is in her third year of a psychology major at Crafton Hills College. "He told me to, 'Just continue.' "
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Sandra Alvarez

by DJ Thursday, Aug. 26, 2004 at 7:31 PM

Sandra Alvarez...
sandra_alvarez.jpg, image/jpeg, 300x181

Sandra Alvarez, 21, of Highland embraces a photographer of her husband U.S. Marine Cpl. Nicanor Alvarez, 22, who was killed in Iraq over the weekend. In the background, Nicanor's brother Ismael Gonzalez Sr., 30, sits in shock.

Mark Zaleski / The Press-Enterprise
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