Chapter 7: Getting Serious

Travel deals

For Murphy and Duggan, parting had been hard. Each of them had thrown themselves into careers they had worked hard to achieve. They paid an emotional price. They stopped corresponding.

"We both had a lot of growing up to do and there was a lot for each of us to experience," Duggan said. "We were young when we drifted apart. I was 22, he was 24."

But on Long Island, Duggan's mother learned from the Murphys that Michael had begun taking on missions overseas. He would eventually be deployed in Jordan and Qatar, but his parents didn't know about it.

Once, when he called from the country of Djibouti, his mother figured out he must have been in Africa when he let slip that he had been chased by a pack of hyenas. Otherwise, his comings and goings were a mystery to the people he loved.

Duggan worried. She began writing him again.

"I was afraid that something would happen to him and I would never be able to tell him how I really felt about him," Duggan said. "I truly think Mike and I both knew we were a couple as soon as the first e-mail correspondence began."

In April 2003, Murphy flew Duggan to Hawaii and greeted her at the airport.

"It was a different hug, different from the hugs we gave each other as friends," she recalled.

"As soon as I walked toward him at the airport, I knew that I was going to have a hard time leaving. So I called my mom a few days later and said I was moving to Hawaii."

Murphy owned a house near Pearl Harbor. The couple talked of starting a family.

Heather dreamed of two children; Murphy, who organized street hockey games for youngsters in the neighborhood - much like his father had coached his teams - needled her about four or five.

On the day after Christmas, 2003, during a trip home to Long Island, Murphy walked Duggan through the holiday crowds to see the tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Though temperatures were in the 30s, Murphy's hands were sweating. For the first time since she had known him, this confident man was anything but.

Surrounded by tourists, Murphy dropped to a knee, dug a ring from his pocket and asked Duggan for her hand in marriage. She made him ask twice to tease him a little longer before saying yes.

Planning a wedding would be difficult while Murphy was on active duty as a SEAL. They picked a date anyway - Nov. 19, 2005.

They planned to move back East when his Navy hitch ended. Thinking ahead, on a visit home in March of that year, Murphy visited an FBI office in New York to inquire about a career in counter terrorism.

But another mission shelved talk of settling down and having babies.

In April 2005, Murphy kissed Duggan goodbye. Nothing of his next destination was known to his family.

With war raging in Iraq - 52 American soldiers were killed there that month - his parents assumed that was where he would go.

Half of his Hawaii-based platoon was sent to western Iraq. But at the last minute, Murphy and the other half found themselves headed for the very region where Osama bin Laden was believed to be hiding.

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