William John Cahir
Sergeant, United States Marine Corps
U.S. Department of Defense
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 618-09
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sergeant William J. Cahir, 40, of Washington D.C., died August 13, 2009, while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 4th Civil Affairs Group, Marine Forces Reserve, based out of Washington D.C.
For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the Marine Forces Reserve public affairs office at (504) 678-6539; or after hours (504) 235-6128.
15 August 2009:
Marine Corps Sergeant William J. Cahir, 40, was killed in Afghanistan's Helmand Province by a single gunshot while conducting combat operations on a dismounted patrol, according to information from the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Department of Defense.
Cahir was "supporting Operation Enduring Freedom combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan," when he was fatally injured on Thursday, a Departmentof Defense release stated.
A native of Bellefonte and former Washington-based journalist and congressional staffer who joined the Marines in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Cahir was killed by "enemy fire," a member of his unit said in a posting on his Facebook page.
Helmand is located in the southern part of Afghanistan, and is a stronghold of the radical Islamist Taliban movement. The area has seen some heavy fighting in recent months, and several massive actions have occurred involving a large contingent of Marines augmented by about 600 Afghan soldiers.
Cahir's "CAG" unit is involved in direct relations with Afghani citizens and communities. The unit's mission often involves mediating with factions involved in disputes, and resolving any problems that might crop up in dealing with American forces. The unit prides itself on using its "civilian" skills in the pursuit of its mission.
Cahir was activated this spring for a tour in Afghanistan and was due to come home in November.
"After 9/11, Bill decided he ought to enlist in the Marine Corps," said Deborah Howell, Cahir's former bureau chief at Newhouse and a former Washington Post ombudsman.
Cahir was a former news reporter in the Washington D.C. Bureau office of The Express-Times and ran for the Democratic nomination for the 5th Congressional District last year.
His wife, Rene Browne, is expecting the birth of twins. She is a business litigation lawyer in Washington D.C.
Cahir was to be honored this morning at the Hometown Heroes Ceremony paying tribute to 511 local veterans featured on banners displayed throughout Lock Haven.
As word of Cahir's death spread through the region, many who knew him expressed sorrow and talked admirably about the him.
U.S. Representative Glenn "GT" Thompson, who won the 5th Congressional seat, said:
"The death of Bill Cahir is tragic and an impossible blow to his family. Penny and I send our thoughts and prayers to his wife, Rene, and to the rest of his family. I met Bill in the primary contest for the 5th Congressional District seat, and we talked more about his outstanding military service than anything else. At the time, our son Logan was serving in Iraq and Bill and I found a lot of common ground to discuss.
"He was a conscientious man who saw service to his country as a high and honorable calling," Thompson continued. "He deserves the praise and admiration of all who knew him, and he deserves the honors bestowed by a grateful nation."
Cahir did two tours of duty in Iraq, was decorated for his service in combat and recently honored as the non-commissioned officer of the year by the 4th Civil Affairs Group.
Journalist Joined Marines After 9/11
By William Branigin
Courtesy of The Washington Post
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Marine Sergeant Bill Cahir, 40, a former Washington-based journalist and congressional staffer who joined the Marines after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 13, his unit and friends reported. He was an Alexandria resident.
Sergeant Cahir, who had been serving in Afghanistan's Helmand province with the Marines' 4th Civil Affairs Group, was killed by "enemy fire," a member of the unit said in a posting on its Facebook page. The death was confirmed by friends of Sergeant Cahir's. No other details were available.
Helmand, in the southern part of Afghanistan, is a stronghold of the radical Islamist Taliban movement and has been the scene of some of the heaviest fighting in recent months involving U.S. forces.
Sergeant Cahir (pronounced "care") moved to the Washington area in the early 1990s and became a staffer on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. In 1999, he joined the Newhouse News Service in Washington as a regional reporter for small dailies owned by the chain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
He joined the Marine Corps as a reservist in 2003. After serving tours in western Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and 2006 to 2007, Sergeant Cahir returned to Newhouse. He resigned in January 2008 to run for Congress in Pennsylvania's 5th District; he lost in the Democratic primary. He had spent the past year working for Booz Allen Hamilton.
William John Cahir was born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Penn State University with a degree in English in 1990.
Survivors include his wife of three years,
René E. Browne of Alexandria, who is pregnant with twin girls; his
parents, John and Mary Anne Cahir of State College, Pennsylvania; two sisters;
and a brother.
When he left Centre County in 1990, a graduate of State College Area High School and Penn State, Cahir went to Washington and began staff work on a Senate committee.
He worked for U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and Senator Harris Wofford, D-Pennsylvania.
After terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, Cahir joined the Marines. He was very nearly too old to enlist in 2003, but he talked his way into an age waiver and served two combat tours in Iraq.
He mixed journalism with military duty during those years, but when the 5th Congressional District seat opened in 2008, Cahir saw another way to serve. He quit his work as a reporter, moved to Bellefonte and ran for the Democratic nomination for the seat.
He lost that race and told a reporter he would not go back to journalism. Instead, he returned to Washington, worked for a time for a consulting firm and was reactivated by the Marines.
On Thursday, at age 40, Cahir’s career of service ended tragically when he was killed in action by enemy fire in Afghanistan.
A Sergeant in the 4th Civil Affairs Group, Cahir was one of about 4,000 Marines and 650 Afghan troops deployed in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province. The province is a fertile opium poppy area, a Taliban stronghold and a scene of fierce fighting.
Marine Major Jerry Kalogiannis, 4th CAG spokesman, said Friday that Cahir (pronounced “care”) was killed by a single gunshot from the enemy while his civilian affairs unit was attached to a Marine infantry unit.
Kalogiannis said no other Marines were killed in the enemy engagement Thursday. He said Cahir was the first 4th CAG Marine — about 150 are in the group — to be killed in action since the group deployed to Afghanistan in May.
The gunshot, Kalogiannis said, was not from sniper fire. But Kalogiannis said he had no additional details, such as the time of day or location within Helmand Province.
During his combat tours in Iraq in 2004-05 and 2006-07, Cahir was the lead turret gunner in a Humvee, but Kalogiannis could not say whether he was doing similar work when he was killed. A friend of Cahir’s said Friday it was his understanding that Cahir was on foot when he was shot.
Cahir’s 4th CAG unit, Kalogiannis said, deals with matters involving Afghan civilians in its attachment to infantry units.
Cahir’s widow, Washington attorney Rene Browne, is pregnant and expecting twin girls, their first children. His parents — Mary Anne Cahir and retired Penn State vice provost and dean John Cahir — drove to Washington Thursday night to be with their daughter-in-law, a friend said.
A July 14 Associated Press story about military operations in and around the Helmand River town of Aynak reported how corrupt Afghan police hampered military operations against the Taliban and quoted Cahir and the commander of the 4th CAG.
According to the story, a group of 150 Marines and Afghan soldiers approached the town, were fired on by police as they approached police headquarters and two days later installed a better trained police force that they had brought with them.
Cahir told the AP reporter that shortly after the Marines arrived in Helmand province, villagers complained to the Americans about the local police and said they posed a bigger problem than the Taliban.
Cahir, who heard some of the complaints, saw the candor from the villagers as a good sign.
“It was encouraging that a big group was willing
to sit down and talk with us,” Cahir told the AP reporter. “And they were
pretty candid talking about the corrupt local police.”
August 18, 2009, 5:42 pm
Remembering a Soldier and a Reporter
By James Dao
Courtesy of The New York Times
He wasn’t your typical Marine Corps recruit, this 34-year-old newspaper reporter and former Congressional aide. Doing 84 situps wasn’t enough; he had to talk his way past skeptical recruiters to get an age waiver. But persistence paid off and William J. Cahir joined the Marines in 2003, astounding friends, family, colleagues and the Washington politicians he covered.
Last Thursday, Sergeant Cahir was killed by an insurgent’s bullet while on a foot patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He was 40.
Sergeant Cahir was widely admired not just by aging recruits but also by fellow journalists. A Washington-based correspondent for Newhouse newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, he wrote about boot camp in a front-page article for the Express-Times in Easton, Pennsylvania, that got him in hot water with his commanding officers but amused and impressed his editor.
“It wasn’t just a schtick,” the editor, Joseph P. Owens, said. “He signed up.”
Sergeant Cahir served two tours in Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan this year with the 4th Civil Affairs Group. He was by all accounts a good Marine, earning three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, including for service in Fallujah where he was a lead turret gunner on more than 140 mounted patrols, according to a medal citation.
Paul Hackett, a Marine reservist who served with Sergeant Cahir in Fallujah, remembered him as cheerful even after he was nearly knocked unconscious by a roadside bomb. “He could have been an officer given his degree from Penn State, but chose to enlist,” Mr. Hackett said.
Sergeant Cahir quit his newspaper job in early 2008 to run for Congress from the district around his hometown, State College, Pennsylvania. He lost in the Democratic primary and his campaign will probably be best remembered by the YouTube video video he posted to clarify the pronunciation of his name. (It’s “care.”)
Sergeant Cahir is survived by his wife, Rene Browne, of Alexandria, Virginia, who is expecting twins. A family friend, Brett Lieberman, said he has been awarded a Purple Heart and will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Cahir was mourned and praised alike Friday.
“You hear about heroes all the time but you rarely get to know them firsthand,” said reporter Brett Lieberman, of The Patriot- News, who worked with Cahir for more than eight years in Washington.
Cahir resigned from reporting early last year to seek the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Representative John Peterson. He came in second in a three-way Democratic primary race, losing to Clearfield County Commissioner Mark Mc- Cracken. McCracken lost the November election to Howard Township Republican Glenn Thompson.
Thompson said Friday he got to know Cahir during the primary campaign because Thompson’s son, Logan, was serving in Iraq and Cahir was by then a veteran.
“He was a conscientious man who saw service to his country as a high and honorable calling,” Thompson said. “He deserves the praise and admiration of all who knew him, and he deserves the honors bestowed by a grateful nation.”
McCracken said Friday that during the primary campaign he realized that Cahir’s combat experience in two tours in Iraq made him a good candidate. “It would have made him very strong it that area if he were serving in Congress now,” McCracken said.
After the primary, Cahir hosted a fundraiser for McCracken and spoke on his behalf at several campaign appearances. After McCracken lost the November election, McCracken said Cahir called, suggested that he might run for the congressional seat again and asked whether McCracken might support him.
McCracken replied that he’d had his “shot” at the seat and would support Cahir.
“I think he did have plans at some point to
come back to the area and maybe run for that again,” McCracken said. “He
didn’t say when.”
Enemy fire killed Marine William J. Cahir
Cahir’s remains were returned to Dover (Delaware) Air Force Base over the weekend, and a burial service was being planned for Arlington National Cemetery. Family spokesman David Price said the Marines told the Cahir family that the Marines won't know anything about the services until after Tuesday. The Marines said the memorial and burial service could be within the next couple of weeks, or the next two months, Price said.
Cahir, 40, a graduate of State College Area High School and Penn State, was a Sergeant in the Marine Reserves 4th Civil Affairs Group and was killed by a single gunshot from the enemy on Thursday, a Marine spokesman said last week.
Price said Sunday he did not have exact details but said it was his understanding that Cahir was shot in the neck while Marines were surrounded by machine gun and small arms fire after entering the town of Dahaneh.
The southern Afghanistan town of Dahaneh, a longtime Taliban stronghold, was the scene of fierce fighting during the middle of last week as Marines launched a new offensive to establish security for this week’s presidential election.
Associated Press reports out of the Dahaneh area said the Marines, backed by Harrier warplanes, were dropped by helicopter over Taliban lines before dawn Wednesday and the first fighting lasted eight hours.
The 4th CAG, Cahir’s unit, is attached with the Marine infantry to deal with civilian matters in Afghanistan.
The Associated Press reports did not refer to either Cahir or his unit but said that, after the initial assault on the Taliban in Dahaneh, Marines prepared “to reach out to civilians possibly huddled in their homes as sporadic but fierce outbursts of intense gunfire continued.”
As a congressional staffer in the 1990s, Cahir worked for Harris Wofford, the Democratic senator from Pennsylvania. Wofford over the weekend called Cahir “one of the great patriots of this era — a wonderful American.”
The Bill Cahir Memorial Fund has been established for the education and well-being of Rene and Bill’s children, family spokesman David Price said. Checks should be made payable to the “Bill Cahir Memorial Fund” at this address:
Burke and Herbert Bank
September 4, 2009
By Peter Schworm, Globe Staff
Two days after Edward M. Kennedy was buried in Arlington National Cemetery near his two slain brothers, Marine Sergeant Bill Cahir, a Pennsylvania native killed in combat Aug. 13 in Afghanistan, was laid to rest in the same hallowed ground.
In one of his final letters, written in his dying days, an ailing Kennedy sent his condolences to Cahir's widow, Rene Browne, who is pregnant with twin girls. Accompanied by a copy of John F. Kennedy's book "Profiles in Courage," the letter commended Cahir, a former aide in Kennedy's office, for his service and sacrifice, and expressed sympathy for his family's loss.
Dated August 20, the hand-signed letter arrived at Cahir's Alexandria, Va., home the day before Kennedy died August 25.
"Bill was a true Profile in Courage, and his selfless dedication to our country will never be forgotten," Kennedy wrote. "I cherish the time that Bill spent on my staff. His commitment to the working men and women of our nation was an inspiration to us all, and we were very grateful for his leadership and friendship and dedication to public service."
Cahir, on his third tour of duty after receivifng a waiver to enlist in the Marines at age 34, was 40 when he was killed by enemy gunshot while on patrol in Helmand Province.
Cahir's sister, Ellen Cahir-McFarland, said Kennedy's gesture, coming so close to the end of his life, was deeply moving and would always be treasured.
"Rene was very touched to receive it, and heartbroken that he died so shortly afterwards," said Cahir-McFarland, 41, who lives in Newton. "It was quite meaningful for her. They were buried two days apart and were linked by their belief in service. They both gave their full lives in service to their country, in service to making the country a better place."
Kennedy and Cahir were linked, she said, by the conviction that "one person could make a difference by doing the right thing."
After graduating from Penn State in 1990, Cahir worked on Kennedy's staff for three years, researching labor legislation and helping with speechwriting. Cahir had always admired Kennedy, his sister said, and was proud to be part of his team.
That was 15 years ago, however, and Cahir's family were moved that Kennedy and his staff remembered him after so long. It was a testament to his and his staff's loyalty and kindness, they said.
"We were very touched that he would do that, especially in failing health," she said. "That he thought of Bill and Bill's service, right at the end, that exemplifies a lot of the traits Bill believed in."
Cahir lived a remarkable life. After working for Kennedy then for Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wofford, he turned to journalism. He worked for a weekly newspaper on Long Island and later returned to Washington covering politics for several small newspapers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
"Bill was always very much interested in politics and government even when we were kids," she said. "He was always civic-minded."
Cahir had long considered military service, his sister said. After September 11, Cahir was compelled to act.
"I can tell you I tried to talk him out of it, but I knew I wouldn't be able to," she recalled. "Once it was clear he had made up his mind, we rallied around him."
After training rigorously to steel himself for the physical demands of boot camp, he enlisted as a reservist in the fall of 2003. He was deployed to Iraq the following year, serving in the Civil Affairs Group. He was married in 2006, then returned to Iraq that fall for a second tour.
"Bill was really a Marine's Marine," she said. "He was there to serve."
Last year, he left journalism to run for Congress from his home district in Central Pennsylvania, finishing second in a three-candidate Democratic primary. He advocated for an orderly withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
"He really wanted a voice in Washington," she said.
Earlier this year, Cahir was called up for a third deployment, this time in Afghanistan. His sister said the Marines' outpouring of support for her brother's family has given her a deeper understanding of her brother and what drove him to serve. She is honored, she said, that they are representing the country.
"It makes me very proud to make me think my brother was part of that group," she said.
A memorial fund to help support his family -- billcahirmemorialfund.org -- has been established in his name. On the site, Cahir is remembered as "who we all aspire to be."
"Selfless and committed, service was not a goal but the rule for Bill. Service to family, community and country were not a question but a given," it states.
CAHIR, WILLIAM J
Posted: 17 August 2009 Updated: 1 September 2009 Updated: 4 September 2009 Updated: 24 October 2009 Updated: 15 December 2009