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Funerals Honor 2 Killed in Afghanistan

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bill Cahir wanted to help people. That desire propelled him to Capitol Hill, into journalism, into the Marines at 34 and to run for Congress.

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"He was very empathic," said his brother, Bart Cahir. "He had a lot of empathy toward understanding your position. From that flowed a desire to help people and a desire to be engaged in service."

Sgt. William J. Cahir, 40, of Alexandria died Aug. 13 of a gunshot wound suffered during combat operations while on dismounted patrol in Afghanistan's Helmand province, according to the Marine Forces Reserve.

On Monday, friends and family gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to bid him farewell. A military band led the horse-drawn caisson carrying Cahir's silver casket, followed by hundreds of mourners.

Cahir was born in Bellefonte, Pa., and he and his three siblings grew up in nearby State College, where their parents, John and Mary Anne, worked for Pennsylvania State University.

After graduating from Penn State in 1990 with a degree in English, Cahir moved to Washington to work for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

He left Capitol Hill in 1995 to work as a Washington-based reporter for Newhouse News Service, writing for several Pennsylvania and New Jersey papers.

Cahir had talked about joining the military as far back as college, his brother said. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks made up his mind, so, despite being 34, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve.

"He didn't want to be on the sidelines," said Brett Lieberman, a friend who worked with Cahir at Newhouse. "He wanted to clearly make a difference in the outcome of the war. I think the best way he saw that he could do that was to quite literally be on the front lines."

Cahir served two deployments in Iraq, returning to his reporting job in between.

He was a father figure to younger Marines, said friend Chris Murphy. "Whenever there were kids around, Bill would always say to the other Marines, 'Be on your best behavior; watch your language,' " Murphy said.

Cahir married Rene Browne in 2006, and their first children -- twins -- are due in December.

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