Bill Cahir, a former Washington, D.C. correspondent for the Gloucester County Times, The News of Cumberland County and Today’s Sunbeam, was killed while serving with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan. Read more on this tragic story below.
Cahir, 40, had already served two tours in Iraq, left Newhouse News Service in 2008 to run for a Pennsylvania congressional seat.
A member of the 4th Civil Affairs Group wrote on the unit’s Facebook page at 9:16 p.m. Aug 13, “The 4th CAG lost Sgt Bill Cahir to enemy fire in Afghanistan today.”
And from the Washington Post:
Marine Sgt. Bill Cahir, a former Washington-based journalist and congressional staffer who joined the Marines in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was killed in Afghanistan on Thursday, his unit and friends reported.
Cahir, 40, 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 Friday by friends of Cahir’s. No other details were immediately 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. In early July, almost 4,000 Marines and more than 600 Afghan soldiers entered areas of southern Helmand that had previously been under Taliban control. It was the largest Marine operation in Afghanistan since 2001, when U.S.-backed Afghan forces drove the Taliban from the capital, Kabul, ending five years of the group’s extreme fundamentalist rule.
Cahir, who joined the Marines as a reservist in 2003 and served two tours in Iraq, ran unsuccessfully last year for a congressional seat in Pennsylvania, his home state, before going to work for a consulting firm in Northern Virginia, said a friend, Brett Lieberman. Cahir had formerly worked in Washington as a correspondent for Newhouse News Service and as a staffer for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee under Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). He also once worked for Sen. Harris L. Wofford (D-Pa.), who served in the Senate from 1991 to 1995.
Cahir was activated again this spring for a tour in Afghanistan, Lieberman said, and was due to come home in November. He lived in Alexandria.
Cahir (pronounced “care”) is survived by his wife of three years, René E. Browne (who is reportedly pregnant), and by his parents, John and Mary Anne Cahir, of State College, Pa. Browne, a Washington attorney, is pregnant with twin girls, the couple’s first children, friends said. John Cahir was vice provost and dean of undergraduate education at Penn State University from 1993 to 2002. Mary Anne Cahir was the university’s chief fundraiser in the Philadelphia area.
Cahir, who was born in Bellefont, Pa., graduated cum laude from Penn State with a degree in English in 1990. He worked on Capitol Hill before beginning his journalism career.
“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. “He was 34 and had to talk his way in.” He then went through basic training with much younger men.
“He loved being a Marine and was loved at the [Newhouse] bureau and by his fellow Marines,” Howell said.
“It was like a religious calling; he felt called after 9/11 to join the military,” she said.
In a July 4, 2004, front-page account in the Express-Times of Easton, Pa., Cahir described his grueling experience at Marine Corps boot camp after persuading recruiters to accept him and sign his age-waiver application.
“I was a college-educated reservist,” he wrote. “I was older than the DIs [drill instructors], and in my civilian job I earned more money than they did.
“Later, the DIs made it clear they were worried about what I might write about them. ‘You don’t know my specialty, do you?’ one raged. ‘Counterintelligence! You’ll never see me coming!’
“Bill was just a really passionate individual when he set his mind to something,” said Lieberman, who worked with Cahir at Newhouse. “When he decided to join the Marines, we all thought he was crazy, but we were all in awe of him . . . and there was no changing his mind.”
At Newhouse, Cahir was a regional reporter for several small dailies owned by the chain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
After serving tours in Ramadi and Fallujah in western Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and from 2006 to 2007, Cahir returned to Newhouse to work as a reporter for the Express-Times. But he resigned in January 2008 to run for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 5th district. He ended up losing in the Democratic primary to a better-known candidate.
Cahir was interested in another run for political office but had not taken any further steps toward that goal, Lieberman said. However, he added, “that dream still lived in him.”
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