March 2- 8, 2006
city beatWas It Worth It?
William J. Maher III
Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division
Died: July 28, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq, age 35
An outdoor-sports enthusiast who enjoyed fishing, snowboarding and skateboarding, Bill had an "insatiable zest for life," according to friend Matt Taylor.
After graduating from Bishop Egan High School in Bucks County, he attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., for six months. When he later joined the Army as a 28-year-old, he cooked for fellow soldiers even though he didn't want to be a chef. Upon graduating from boot camp, he was stationed at the Panama Canal and then at Fort Hood, Texas, where the prankster was occasionally teased for being older than his peers.
His mother, Adeline Maher, said Bill considered joining the Army, "the best thing [he] ever did." After re-enlisting, he went to Friedberg, Germany, an assignment which enabled him to go snowboarding in Austria. When he came home to Yardley on leave, his mother found him pacing through the house. He told her he missed his friends and was restless.
That Mother's Day, he was on route to Iraq, where he'd have a hard time coping with the reality of being shot at, and having to pat down women and children. On July 26, 2003, he called his parents. He asked them to have a Mass said for a friend who had died when a vehicle fell on him as he tried to replace a tire.
Two days later, Adeline stayed home from work with a sore throat and watched a Fox News broadcast that indicated a soldier had been killed in Iraq. Later that afternoon, two soldiers knocked on her door. She thought Bill had come home to surprise her. But when she didn't recognize them, she realized they were there with a grave message.
Her son had died in the humvee she'd seen shattered by an improvised explosive device (IED) on television.
Bill's father, William Maher Jr., said he misses his son but, mustering as much strength as he could, added that America needs people like Bill who are willing to defend the country.
"War is hell. It's terrible, just terrible," said William. "But, hey, they started it. We have to take it to them before they bring it to us."
The family takes solace in a letter Bill sent home shortly before his death.
"Seeing all the people, places and cultures made me realize that I'm a strong person and that nothing is too difficult," Bill wrote. "The experience is like no other."