A Marine Felled in Iraq

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Marine 2nd Lt. James J. Cathey was killed in Iraq on Aug. 21. His superiors described him as a model Marine and a natural leader. Cathey was killed by an improvised explosive device barely one month after he arrived in Iraq. Reporter Eric Whitney of member station KRCC reports.


James J. Cathey was a 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps, and he was one of the best of the service's newly commissioned officers. His superiors described him as a model Marine and a natural leader. Lieutenant Cathey was killed by a bomb late last month, barely one month after he arrived in Iraq. From member station KRCC in Colorado Springs, Eric Whitney has this remembrance.

ERIC WHITNEY reporting:

Homeowners in Brighton, Colorado, were out mowing their lawns, jogging and playing with their kids on a recent sunny Saturday morning. But inside one house, 23-year-old Katherine Cathey is coming to terms with the loss of her husband in Iraq, halfway through her pregnancy with their only child.

Ms. KATHERINE CATHEY (Widow): It's crazy that, you know, Jim's not here with us anymore, but in a way, he is. And I try to be really happy and excited about my son. The thing that hurts is just thinking so much about the day that Jim was supposed to come home and meet his son. It hurts me the most that he didn't get to do that.

WHITNEY: Doctors told Katherine and Jim that for medical reasons they probably wouldn't be able to have children. But just a few weeks before he deployed overseas, Katherine found out that the doctors were wrong.

Ms. K. CATHEY: I said, `Are you sitting down?' He said, `We're having a baby!' I went, `Yeah.' He goes, `It's a boy. I know it's a boy. I just know it.' And he was really excited to find out.

WHITNEY: By the time Katherine could schedule an ultrasound, Jim had already been in Iraq for a month. He called home after every mission. But two days before she could find out whether they were having a boy or a girl, Katherine learned that Jim had been killed.

Jim's mother, Carolyn Cathey, lives in Reno, Nevada. When she learned that her son was being sent to Iraq, she had a premonition of her own.

Ms. CAROLYN CATHEY (Mother): When I would think about him when he was over there, I would see three men in the dress greens come up to the door. And I told me daughter about it, and she said, `Mom, don't think that way.' So I would pray harder and pray harder and wish that they would just go away, and it didn't. It happened.

WHITNEY: Jim Cathey's death was a shock not just to his family, but to others in the Marines. After a hitch as an enlisted man, he won a scholarship in 2002 to the University of Colorado, where he also worked toward his commission as an officer. Captain James Koehler, an adviser to the program, says Jim regularly exceeded expectations.

Captain JAMES KOEHLER: He demonstrated that--even as a young sergeant that he had take-charge mentality, that he was not afraid to lead, not afraid to make tough decisions, very smart, well-spoken young man.

WHITNEY: Cathey graduated with honors a year early. His original plan was to make a career of the Marines. But his wife says that once they learned she was pregnant, Jim talked about getting out of the Marines to spend more time with his family. His son, James Jr., is expected to arrive on January 1st. For NPR News, I'm Eric Whitney in Colorado Springs.

MELISSA BLOCK (Host): This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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