William John Cahir

Filed under: Obituary — Chamberlain @ 1:42 pm
No. 123

We have just learned that Hugh Law has recently lost a relative, a 40 year old soon-to-be father who was killed in Afghanistan where he was deployed in the Marine Corps. The marine was Bill Cahir (pronounced ‘care’), a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient, whose story is inspirational.

In 2001 Bill was working in Washington D.C. as a correspondent for Newhouse News. After 9/11, at age 34, he told his father that he wanted to do something meaningful and he joined the Marine Corps. Because of his age he had to request an exception to the age restriction for enlistees. This was granted and Bill subsequently served two tours of duty in Iraq, first in Ramadi 2004-2005, then in Fallujah 2006-2007. During these deployments he received three military awards, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and two Combat Action Ribbons.

In 2006, Bill married Hugh Law’s cousin, Rene Brown. Hugh and Katherine attended their wedding, a photo from which is included below.

On August 13, 2009 Bill was shot while in an offensive operation in a town called Dananeh, in Helmand Province. Bill’s job had been described as “a community organizer while carrying a pack and a rifle.” The marines were securing the town to allow voting in the Afgan presidential election. Tragically, Rene had just learned that she was pregnant with twin girls.

Hugh has provided this link to a slideshow of Bill’s Arlington funeral and adds this commentary:

Rene’s escort is Bill’s captain, Jason Bresler, his commanding officer in Iraq and Afghanistan and one of the ushers at their wedding. An FDNY fireman in civilian life, he [Jason] was supported by five of his colleagues who came down in their dress blues from his firehouse in the Bronx to support him in getting through the funeral ceremonies and his eulogy afterwards at the Ft. Meyer officers’ club. He speaks briefly in the previous video I sent.

… Rene … was graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Duke, served as an editor on the Georgetown Law Journal, was a clerk to a federal judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and is now a business litigator at Hogan & Hartson, on extended maternity leave. But these credentials are overshadowed by her personal qualities: first-class temperament and character, as well as intellect. She has a calm that borders on serenity and allows her to entertain family and take care of her babies with an awareness of everything that is going on. Her answer to Ann Curry’s question whether she regretted her husband’s enlisting, even now, sticks with me: “No. The character that motivated Bill was such an integral part of his being. His moral compass always pointed true North. That was why I loved him.” May we all be regretted in that fashion by those near to us when we are gone.



Here are some photos of Bill, his family, his wife Rene, and his Arlington funeral. Our hearts go out to Rene, Bill’s parents and siblings, and to Hugh and Katherine.

Bill with his parents after
basic training at Paris Island.

Rene and Bill’s Engagement picture

The 2006 wedding at a colonial church in Alexandria
Katherine and Hugh were there. Dress blues and a Vera Wang gown!

In Afghanistan, deployed with his reservist Civic Affairs Group
in support of combat operations in Helmand province.

At Arlington National Cemetery last September
Rene, Bill’s parents, sisters and brother.

Hugh’s reflections apply: “Who was it who said: ‘We cry when we enter the world. We should live our lives so that the world cries when we leave it”?

Bill Cahir’s Wikipedia bio is available here. A memorial fund has been established – the Bill Cahir Memorial Fund, Box 268, Alexandria, Va. 22313, as well as a web site for donations to the family.


  1. Many thanks from the Laws.

    May I add two thoughts. Sarah and I were struck by this from Captain Bresler’s eulogy: “General Petraeus writes that talent is not synonymous with rank. Bill was involved far beyond his rank in diplomacy with the tribal sheiks in the Al Anbar Awakening. I valued his opinion as much as any senior officer’s.”

    Last Sunday in Washington, I met the twins, Caroline and Elizabeth Cahir, now 8 weeks old. I have hopes some day of bringing them to Moone Athy, to feed a carrot to Blossom.


    Comment by Hugh — January 31, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

  2. “Indeed if I have dwelt at some length upon the character of our country, it has been to show that our stake in the struggle is not the same as theirs who have no such blessings to lose, and also that the panegyric of the men over whom I am now speaking might be by definite proofs established. That panegyric is now in a great measure complete; for the Athens that I have celebrated is only what the heroism of these and their like have made her, men whose fame, unlike that of most Hellenes, will be found to be only commensurate with their deserts. And if a test of worth be wanted, it is to be found in their closing scene, and this not only in cases in which it set the final seal upon their merit, but also in those in which it gave the first intimation of their having any. For there is justice in the claim that steadfastness in his country’s battles should be as a cloak to cover a man’s other imperfections; since the good action has blotted out the bad, and his merit as a citizen more than outweighed his demerits as an individual. But none of these allowed either wealth with its prospect of future enjoyment to unnerve his spirit, or poverty with its hope of a day of freedom and riches to tempt him to shrink from danger. No, holding that vengeance upon their enemies was more to be desired than any personal blessings, and reckoning this to be the most glorious of hazards, they joyfully determined to accept the risk, to make sure of their vengeance, and to let their wishes wait; and while committing to hope the uncertainty of final success, in the business before them they thought fit to act boldly and trust in themselves. Thus choosing to die resisting, rather than to live submitting, they fled only from dishonour, but met danger face to face, and after one brief moment, while at the summit of their fortune, escaped, not from their fear, but from their glory. ” Thucydides 2.6 (ZDMc)

    Comment by chambers — January 31, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

  3. Translation: Crawley. (ZDMc)

    Comment by chambers — January 31, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

  4. this recalls my favorite poem, Invictus, he personified the message:

    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds and shall find me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

    Comment by Bill Cromie — January 31, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

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