Ciara M. Durkin
Corporal, United States Army
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 1171-07
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Specialist Ciara M. Durkin, 30, of Quincy, Massachusetts, died September 28, 2007, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident. She was assigned to the 726th Finance Battalion, Massachusetts Army National Guard, West Newton, Massachusetts.
The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.
For more information related to this release,
media may contact the Massachusetts National Guard public affairs office
at (508) 233-6562.
QUINCY, Massachusetts - Pierce Durkin wasn’t home when his sister Ciara called from Afghanistan to wish him a happy birthday. But hours later, after learning that the Massachusetts Army National Guard specialist had been killed, he listened to her singing ‘‘Happy Birthday’’ again.
It was classic Ciara, family members said, fun-loving and thoughtful even though she was thousands of miles away serving her country.
‘‘She was the type of person who took care of people. She always came second,’’ Deirdre Durkin, 45, of Quincy, said of her sister.
Ciara (pronounced Kee-ra) Durkin, 30, a 1996 graduate of Fontbonne Academy in Milton, was killed in Afghanistan. Her siblings said the military told them that Ciara died Friday. She had been assigned to a finance unit at Bagram Air Base since February.
The military has yet to release details regarding her death.
Durkin is the third Massachusetts woman and the first on the South Shore to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. She is the 15th service member with connections to the South Shore to die in either Iraq or Afghanistan. A total of 3,802 American soldiers so far have lost their lives.
Relatives gathered at the Houghs Neck home of one of Durkin’s sisters Sunday to grieve her death and talk about her life.
‘‘I don’t think a conversation didn’t end without her saying, ‘I love you,’’’ Durkin’s sister, Fiona Canavan, 44, of Quincy, said. ‘‘She was the funniest and wittiest person.’’
Ciara Durkin was the eighth of nine children, all born in Ireland.
Their father, Tom Durkin, who was born in New York City, moved to Ireland when he was 3.
After retiring as a teacher in Galway, Tom Durkin returned to the United States with his wife, Angela, and settled in Dorchester in 1986 when Ciara was 9. Ciara’s father died of a heart attack several weeks after the family moved to Boston.
As a young girl, she attended St. Mark’s Elementary School in Dorchester.
She joined the Army National Guard in October 2005 after getting laid off from her information technology job at Fenway Health.
Although she had talked about joining the Army before, her siblings said she felt losing her job was a sign that she should sign up for military service.
‘‘She wanted to be somewhere where she could help,’’ Fiona Canavan said. ‘‘She felt it was an important job.’’
Ciara was at home with her family for a couple of weeks last month before returning to Afghanistan, where her tour was scheduled to last until this upcoming February.
A Red Sox fan, she attended three games during her most recent trip home.
‘‘She was compassionate to a fault,’’ her sister, Maura Durkin, 50, also of Quincy, said.
Ciara’s family said she loved animals and was always there for her many nieces and nephews.
During her recent leave she found time to paint the front and back stairs, mow the lawn and even take out the trash at her sister Deirdre’s home in Houghs Neck.
When Deirdre’s husband died several years ago, Ciara stepped in to help in any way she could, her sister said.
She lived in Dorchester before moving to Quincy a few years ago.
Ciara’s family said she received commendations for her military service and was credited with helping save the life in April of a contractor who fell 26½ feet after slipping off a ladder in the building in Bagram where she worked.
Her duties with the 726th Unit’s Task Force Diamond included making sure the finances of soldiers were in order and their families back home were receiving benefits.
Ciara’s youngest brother, Pierce, 28, said he and his sister planned to get an apartment together in Cambridge after she completed her military duty.
‘‘We are so proud of her service,’’ Pierce said.
Despite her death, Ciara’s siblings went ahead with plans to walk Sunday in the Quincy Medical Center Cancer Walk to benefit the Marie A. Curry Fund. They are asking that donations in their sister’s memory go to the fund that pays for cancer screenings for low-income residents and other services.
Ciara Durkin is also survived by her mother, who lives on Stoughton Street in Houghs Neck; brothers Tom Durkin, 48, of Long Island, New York, Owen Durkin, 46, of Annaghvane, County Galway, Ireland; and sisters, Aine Durkin, 49, of Donegal, Ireland, and Angela Conneely, also 49, of Annaghvane.
Keaney Funeral Home in Dorchester is handling arrangements.
Her family said Ciara will be cremated following
a military funeral. Some of her ashes will be interred at her father’s
grave in Ireland. The remaining ashes will be buried in Arlington National
Cemetery and given to her sister, Deirdre.
The family of an Irish woman who was killed while serving with the US army in Afghanistan has appealed to the Irish Government to participate in the inquiry into her death.
Ciara Durkin, 30, originally from Eanach Mheáin in Connemara, died as a result of a single gunshot wound to the head within the Bagram airbase, according to information the military has released to the Durkin Family.
Speaking on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta this morning Pádraig Ó Conghaile, Ms Durkin's brother-in-law, appealed to the Department of Foreign Affairs to participate in the investigation into her death.
The Durkin family have been informed that the
investigation, which is being conducted by the military in the US, will
take up to eight weeks to complete.
QUINCY - Her sisters walked 4 miles yesterday to raise money for cancer care. It was what Ciara M. Durkin would have demanded, they said. During the march, a moment of silence was held in honor of Durkin, a 30-year-old specialist in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, who was killed in action last week in Afghanistan.
The Quincy woman pledged $100 for the Quincy Medical Center Cancer Walk and wrote: "I give because I learned to stay strong here in Afghanistan because of your courage. I love you."
Durkin was born in Ireland, the eighth of nine children. A devoted aunt, she sent allowance money from a war zone so her nieces and nephews would know she was thinking of them. She is the third female soldier from Massachusetts to die in the current Mideast wars the first in Afghanistan. Circumstances of her death have not been announced.
Family members said they were told she died Friday.
However, in a statement yesterday, the Massachusetts National Guard said Durkin was killed in action on Thursday in Afghanistan. She had been assigned to Task Force Diamond, as part of a finance unit that had deployed in November, the statement read.
"Whenever a soldier dies in the line of duty, it is a tragedy that affects us all," Major General Joseph C. Carter, adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, said in the statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Specialist Durkin's family and her fellow soldiers."
The death is under investigation in accordance with US Central Command policy, the statement indicated.
Yesterday, her sister Deirdre Durkin's house in Quincy had become a shrine and a place to trade memories about Ciara (pronounced Kee-ra). On the walls hung two painted portraits of her as a young girl, with lush, curly red hair and a bright smile. On the dining room table and along the shelves sat photos of her at prom during her student years at Fontbonne Academy in Milton; at communion and confirmation in Ireland; and with family. One of her green Army dress uniforms hung by a window.
"She was very vocal about her feelings," said her sister Fiona Canavan, 44, of Quincy. "She was constantly telling us she loved us . . . before she was even in the Army."
Before she enlisted two years ago, she worked in information technology for a healthcare company, relatives said. She joined the Army National Guard because she admired military discipline and wanted to do something for her country, they said.
She was sent to Bagram Air Base in February and was expected to end her tour of duty a year later. She returned for two weeks with her family early last month - painting steps, mowing lawns, and building shelves at her mother's and sister's houses, spending happy times with friends and family, and attending Red Sox games to reconnect with her beloved team.
Her 17 nieces and nephews were Durkin's other passion.
"She was the aunt that would take them outside and play," said Canavan. "She rough-housed."
Together they would play foosball, and a game in which the children had to lie still and keep from laughing as Durkin tickled, teased, or pretended to sit on them. If they showed their teeth, they would lose.
The children seldom won, Canavan said.
"She'd be all red-faced out there and beaming, herself," said Deirdre Durkin, 45.
Ciara Durkin took a special interest in Deirdre's three children because they lost their father, Barry Goonan, to cancer eight years ago. Ciara Durkin lost her own father to a heart attack when she was 9 years old, just six weeks after she and her parents moved to Massachusetts from Ireland. Deirdre said it was important to Ciara that she serve as a role model for the youngsters.
She would announce bedroom inspections and threaten to withhold allowances for those who failed. But she would deposit the allowance regardless, Deirdre Durkin said. She sent Deirdre's 14-year-old son, Brian, a merit medal, something that is helping him as he grieves his aunt, Deirdre said.
In April, she sent the family an e-mail with a photograph of her and an American private contractor, who explained in a note how Durkin had helped break his fall from a 26-foot ladder.
"Without a doubt, she saved my life," he wrote. "Her personal sacrifice has bonded her and I as friends (to the bone) for life."
In other e-mails, Durkin told her sisters that she loved Afghanistan and was amazed by its landscape, though a little bothered by the constant dust.
In July, she celebrated her 30th birthday with friends at the Kabul airport, the only place she could get Pad Thai noodles, her favorite meal. The family sent her a package with cards and a four-hour video compilation made from old home movies. It made her cry, the sisters said.
A few weeks ago, Durkin's last night on leave, the family took her to dinner at the Fowler House restaurant in Quincy. Deirdre asked her sister if she had any reservations about returning to Afghanistan. She did not, Ciara told her sister. On her way back to Kabul, Durkin's plane stopped for refueling in Shannon, Ireland, where she called two sisters and a brother who live there. She planned to return to school when her service ended, her sisters said.
Durkin's body was returned to the United States
Saturday, Canavan said. Funeral arrangements have not been finalized.
The frustrated family of Quincy soldier Ciara Durkin, mysteriously shot dead on a secure Afghanistan airbase, has commissioned an independent autopsy into her death in a desperate bid for answers.
Massachusetts National Guard specialist Durkin, 30, was found with a single gunshot wound to the head behind a church on Bagram Airbase at about 6:30 p.m. on September 27, 2007.
The family pushed for the independent exam after military officials failed to answer their questions about what exactly happened.
“We know for certain there will be an autopsy and that it will be conducted after Ciara’s funeral (on Saturday),” said her brother, Pierce Durkin, who would not give more details.
The Army initially refused to grant the family’s independent autopsy request but changed its mind a day after Sen. John F. Kerry put pressure on Pentagon chief Robert Gates.
Her mysterious death came just weeks after she told family she feared for her safety after seeing something on the airbase that concerned her. She told her family to investigate if anything happened to her.
Army investigators said they will speak with the family regarding Durkin’s prophetic statement.
“We will be contacting the family and will certainly take account of any information they are able to provide,” said Chris Grey, spokesman for the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID), which is probing Durkin’s death.
Grey insisted the case is not a criminal investigation, saying it was an “undetermined” death. He would not reveal any other details to “protect the integrity” of the investigation.
Openly gay, Durkin was engaged to be married her family said yesterday, but would not give any more details about her partner.
Durkin also worked as a volunteer for Mass Equality, an organization that promotes and protects marriage equality in the state.
Her family has dismissed the notion that Durkin committed suicide and is not convinced her death was linked to her sexuality.
The Service members Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which fights discrimination against gay military personnel, backed that view. “There is no evidence to date that Ciara’s sexual orientation played a role in her death,” said spokesman Steve Ralls.
Durkin, attached to the 726th Finance Battalion,
was decorated nine times by the military. Her honors included the Army
Commendation Medal, and she was an “expert” marksman, her family said.
The Quincy soldier mysteriously slain by a bullet to the head on a secure Afghanistan airbase feared something might happen to her after discovering “something she didn’t like,” her devastated family revealed.
Massachusetts National Guard Specialist Ciara Durkin, 30, was found with a single gunshot wound to her head behind a building at Bagram Airbase on September 27, 2007/
“The last time she was home she said she had seen things that she didn’t like and she had raised concerns that had annoyed some people,” said Durkin’s sister Fiona Canavan, 44, of Quincy.
“She said, and I thought she was joking, that if anything happened to her we had to investigate.”
Canavan said she did not know what her baby sister had seen or whom she had told, and she rejected the notion that Durkin committed suicide. The military has not answered the family’s questions about her death, she added.
Publicly, the military will only say her death is under investigation.
Canavan said Durkin was openly gay, but she did not believe that had anything to do with her death.
Bay State political leaders are also demanding answers from the U.S. military’s top brass.
Senator John F. Kerry has written to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates while Senator Edward M. Kennedy and U.S. Representative William D. Delahunt (D-Quincy) have contacted Army Secretary Pete Geren.
Kennedy said he has spoken to Geren to make sure the family’s concerns are known and addressed at the highest level while Delahunt wrote to Geren.
Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs has also weighed in, confirming it contacted U.S. officials in Dublin and Washington after a plea for answers from Durkin’s relatives in Ireland.
Durkin was assigned to the 726th Finance Battalion, Massachusetts Army National Guard at Bagram Airbase where she helped make sure soldiers in Afghanistan got paid.
“(The military) is definitely holding back,” said Canavan. “As to why we can only speculate.”
She said it could take anywhere from three weeks to three months for her sister’s autopsy report to be released.
Officials initially told the family Durkin was “killed in action” but changed their story over the weekend, saying she perished from “non-combat related” injuries.
Durkin was deployed to Afghanistan in February
and was due to return home in January. Her funeral is Saturday at St. John’s
Parish Church on School Street, Quincy.
Hundreds of people yesterday turned out for the wake of the vibrant young Quincy National Guard member killed on an Afghan air base.
Family and friends filed past photos of Specialist Ciara Durkin, the woman they fondly nicknamed “Ciaraweerabrat,” including one picture of her at the hospital beside a contractor whose life she saved.
“She was amazing,” said one friend who remembered her quick wit and contagious smile, but declined to say more. “I don’t have the words to do her justice,” she said.
“She knew her own mind and was a free spirit,” said a Dorchester woman whose daughter went to school with Durkin. “If the subject came up and she had an opinion about it, she wasn’t afraid to say it.”
Mystery surrounds the death of the 30-year-old soldier who was found with a single bullet wound in her head last week on a secure military base in what the Pentagon so far will describe only as a non-combat incident.
The eighth of nine children, Durkin had five sisters, three brothers and numerous friends. For nearly six hours yesterday, a steady stream of them pulled into the parking lot of Dennis Sweeney Funeral Home, so many a handful of police was dispatched to control traffic on an ordinarily quiet stretch of Elm Street.
Durkin, who was openly gay, worked as a volunteer for Mass-Equality, an organization that promotes marriage equality. She was engaged to be married.
A member of the 726th Finance Battalion, Durkin was decorated nine times by the military. At the funeral home yesterday, many of her medals and citations lay next to her flag-draped coffin, as a soldier stood on either side.
“As Ciara had requested, her remains will be
cremated,” a statement from the Durkin family said. “A portion of her ashes
will be brought to Ireland to be buried with her father in Galway. Another
portion will stay in Quincy at the home of her sister, Deidre. The remaining
ashes will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia with
full military honors.”
The death of Army National Guard Specialist Ciara Durkin of Quincy is being investigated as if she was murdered, a military spokesman said.
But Army officials are stopping short of calling it a homicide investigation and are leaving open other possibilities, including suicide.
The 30-year-old was shot once in the head and her body was found near a church inside Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where she was stationed. Durkin’s death was initially reported as a combat loss but military officials revised that to a non-combat death.
‘‘That’s not to say it’s a homicide investigation; we just treat it like that,’’ said Chris Grey, director of public affairs for the Army’s criminal investigations command, - the law enforcement agency that deals with all felony-level investigations. ‘‘We don’t make a call if it’s a suicide or homicide. We treat them all the same to make sure we get to the truth of what actually transpired.’’
Durkin’s family has discounted the possibility she killed herself. They say that during a trip home last month, Ciara Durkin said she had seen some things ‘‘she didn’t like and made some enemies because of it,’’ her sister Fiona Canavan told the Patriot Ledger.
Pierce Durkin said today that a second, independent autopsy will be performed on his sister’s body after her funeral Mass Saturday in Quincy. The family, with the help of Sen. John Kerry’s office, pushed for another autopsy, separate from the one the military has done. The family has asked for the results of the military’s autopsy but hasn’t received them.
Durkin’s family members say that all the military has told them is that Ciara’s body was found at about 6:30 p.m. Friday Afghanistan time, dead of a single bullet to the head.
Grey said investigators were on the scene of Durkin’s death ‘‘within minutes,’’ and a full investigation has been under way since.
He would not estimate how long the investigation
Despite her family’s concerns about foul play, Army investigators have concluded that Corporal Ciara Durkin’s death last September was a suicide.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) concluded that Army National Guard Corporal Ciara Durkin’s death last September was the result of a suicide. Durkin, a Quincy resident who was an active member of Boston’s LGBT community before joining the National Guard, was found dead at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan from a gunshot wound to the head.
"We concluded that her death unfortunately was a self-inflicted gunshot wound and suicide," said Christopher Grey, a spokesman for the CID.
Durkin’s family, who could not be reached for comment, released a statement about the CID investigation this week via a memorial website they had created in Durkin’s honor. The statement suggests that the family is not satisfied with the CID’s conclusions.
"We are very upset and saddened by their conclusion," reads the statement. "We have borne an extraordinary amount of pain over the past nine months, compounded by a protracted and at times ambiguous investigation. We now need time and privacy to grieve, and let our Ciara finally rest in peace."
Grey said CID notified Durkin’s family in early April that it was closing the investigation, and at that time the CID presented the family with its findings. He said he was unsure when the family received the final written report on Durkin’s death.
Following Durkin’s death her family publicly voiced suspicions that she may have been murdered. Her brother, Pierce Durkin, told Bay Windows in October that when his sister was in the Boston area visiting her family last June she told them "that she had some concerns about her safety and that if anything were to happen we were to investigate it." The family, working with Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy and Congressman William Delahunt, successfully petitioned the Army to be allowed to conduct their own independent autopsy.
In an October 3, 2007, Boston Globe story Durkin’s sister, Fiona Canavan, speculated that Durkin could have been targeted for being gay, but Pierce Durkin told Bay Windows the family had no evidence that she was open about her sexuality within the military.
Grey said CID investigated the family’s concern that she may have been murdered, but he said the evidence did not support that theory.
"We followed all available leads and found no sign whatsoever of foul play," said Grey. Brigid O’Rourke, a spokeswoman for Kerry, said the senator is withholding public comment on the results of the CID investigation out of respect for Durkin’s family. Kennedy’s and Delahunt’s offices did not respond to requests for comment.
Grey said the CID investigation looked at a range of evidence, including physical evidence at the scene, statements from witnesses, phone records, a psychological review of Durkin, and a finding by the Army Medical Examiner that Durkin had committed suicide.
In the aftermath of Durkin’s death her family told press that she had been in good spirits the last time they saw her in September. Pierce Durkin told Bay Windows she was excited to resume her life as a civilian in February and to marry her fiancée, Haidee Loreto.
On June 14 Durkin’s friends and family members celebrated her life by marching on her behalf in the Boston Pride Parade. Durkin, a former volunteer with the Pride Committee, had been named an honorary Pride marshal.
Durkin received full military honors in an October 6, 2008, ceremony outside St. John the Baptist Church in Quincy, where her funeral was held. She was posthumously promoted to the rank of corporal. A portion of her ashes were interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Nearly nine months to the day after Ciara Durkin's mysterious death left her family filled with sadness and uncertainty, more than 70 mourners gathered at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday to say goodbye.
Durkin, 30, of Quincy, Massachusetts, died September 28, 2007, at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, the Defense Department reported. An Army investigation ruled her death a suicide from a gunshot to the head. Durkin was a corporal in the Army National Guard.
"No matter how bad her day was going, when she was with you, her silliness, her hearty, infectious laughter was an effort to make you happy," Durkin's brother Pierce said in a eulogy at her funeral Mass in October.
"She was selfless to a fault. It was a fault, because often, in order to make you happy, she forgot about herself in the process. . . . Our happiness made her happy."
Yesterday, mourners followed the small wooden box containing the remains of the soldier nicknamed "Ciara Weera Brat" to her grave site in Section 60. Durkin was the 488th military person killed in Iraq or Afghanistan to be buried at Arlington.
Durkin, the eighth of nine children, was born in Ireland and moved to the United States at 14, according to a memorial Web site operated by her family. She worked as an information technology specialist at a community health center in Boston before entering the Army National Guard in October 2005. She deployed to Afghanistan in November 2006.
Shortly after Durkin's death, her sister Fiona Canavan raised the possibility that Durkin, a lesbian, might have been targeted because of her sexual orientation. Durkin also was concerned about events in Afghanistan, her sister said.
"She did say to us that she had concerns about things she was seeing when she was over there," Canavan told WGBH-TV of Boston in October. "She told us if anything happened to her that we were to investigate it."
The military investigation into her death took seven months and was completed in April, Army Criminal Investigations Command spokesman Chris Grey said. He said agents "conducted a thorough and detailed investigation," taking into account questions and concerns raised by the family.
"Our conclusion was based on all available evidence, to include witness statements, evidence at the scene, phone records, psychological review and also the finding of suicide by the armed forces medical examiner," he said.
This week, the Durkin family posted a statement on the Web site commenting on the Army's report.
"The Durkin family has received the Army's final report into Ciara's death with their conclusion that she took her own life. We are very upset and saddened by their conclusion," the statement reads. "We have borne an extraordinary amount of pain over the past nine months, compounded by a protracted and at times ambiguous investigation. We now need time and privacy to grieve, and let our Ciara finally rest in peace."
Durkin was assigned to the 726th Finance Battalion, Massachusetts Army National Guard based in West Newton. She received several honors, including the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.
"Corporal Durkin is sadly missed, but we will never forget the sacrifices she made for her country," Brigadier General Thomas J. Sellars of the Massachusetts Army National Guard said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Durkin family."
Durkin returned home for the last time for two weeks' leave in early September The day she died, she had called her brother Pierce to leave him a voice mail for his birthday.
"I thought it was cute at the time," Pierce Durkin told CBS News in October. "Now it's priceless."
DURKIN, CIARA M
Posted: 1 October 2007 Updated: 6 October 2007 Updated: 27 June 2008 Updated: 1 July 2008 Updated: 8 October 2008 Updated: 19 April 2009
Photo Courtesy of Holly, April 2009
Photo Courtesy of Holly, July 2008