Sgt. William Cahir, a former news reporter and congressional candidate, has been killed in Afghanistan while serving with the Marines, a family friend said. He was 40.
Cahir -- whose wife Rene Browne is expecting twins in December -- was deployed to Afghanistan in the spring and was shot while on armed foot patrol in the Helmand province, according to the family friend.
His father, John Cahir, told NBCWashington that he and his wife are devastated by the loss of their son, but they are "so proud" of their son and his accomplishments.
"He [William Cahir] was a wonderful young man. He's the son that every mother and father would love to have," Cahir's father said.
Cahir was also lauded at a newspaper where he used to work.
"This is an American hero as far as I'm concerned," said Joe Owens, editor of The Express-Times, of Easton, Pa. "This guy's the real thing.''
Cahir, a Bellefonte, Pa., native, was working in the newspaper's Washington, D.C., bureau. Owens said Cahir enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 2003 in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"He was in his mid-30s, only days away from being ineligible -- too old to sign up for the Marine Corps, and he essentially talked his way in because it was something he had to do,'' Owens said.
Deborah Howell, Cahir's former editor-in-chief at Newhouse Newspapers, told NBCWashington that Cahir was not phased by the prospect of dying while serving his country.
"I said, 'When you're an old man, will you regret it if you don't go?' and he said, 'Yes, I think I will.' And I said, 'But Bill, what if you end up dead?' and he said, 'Well, it would be for a good purpose,'" Howell recalled.
Cahir did two tours of duty in Iraq before returning to Pennsylvania.
He ran in a three-way Democratic primary last year to replace longtime Republican Rep. John Peterson. Clearfield County Commissioner Mark McCracken won the primary and was in turn defeated by Republican Glenn Thompson in the overwhelmingly Republican district, which covers a large area of north-central Pennsylvania.
The Express-Times reported that after losing the primary, Cahir said, "My journalism career is over. I'll talk to the Marine Corps and see what they want me to do and talk to my wife and see what she wants me to do."
Owens called the former newspaperman "a great American."
"He was committed to serving this country,'' Owens said. "He was on a career path before this that could have led anywhere for him, and he chose this because it was what he needed to do."
Cahir is survived by his parents and his wife.
A memorial has been set up by Burke and Herbert Bank to benefit Cahir and his wife's twins-to-be .