The Assembly Transportation Committee today cleared Assembly Republicans John DiMaio and Erik Peterson’s legislation commemorating the heroism and sacrifice of the U.S. Army’s legendary “Sky Soldiers.” The bill (A-2408) designates State Route 173 between Clinton and Phillipsburg as “173rd Airborne Brigade Highway.”
“Their honor was earned in the furious skies and on the bloody battle fields by soldiers who wanted nothing more than to serve and protect our great nation,” said DiMaio, R-Warren, Hunterdon and Somerset. “Whenever our nation called, they met and exceeded expectations.”
Originally activated as an infantry brigade in 1915, the 173rd was deployed to France during World War I and fought in three European campaigns during World War II. After reorganizing as an airborne brigade, this unique cutting-edge unit became best known for its bravery during the Vietnam War.
Called the “Sky Soldiers” by the enemy, they parachuted from helicopters onto battlefields in the Iron Triangle to block North Vietnamese incursions during some of the bloodiest fighting in the war.
“These courageous men risked their lives to protect people they never met,” said Peterson, R-Hunterdon, Warren and Somerset. “We are not only proud, but also honored to live in a country where this type of courage exists.”
During more than six years of nearly continuous combat, the 173rd earned 14 campaign streamers and four unit citations. Its troopers earned over 7,700 decorations, including 13 Medals of Honor and more than 130 distinguished service crosses. The names of 1,534 are carved into the Vietnam Memorial and 6,000 Purple Hearts were awarded to members of the brigade.
Since its reactivation in 2000, the brigade served five tours in the Middle East in support of the War on Terror.
“This humble tribute is a reminder of the sacrifices these brave men made,” concluded DiMaio. “Whether pushing back Nazi’s on the western front, dropping into the jungles of Vietnam, or battling in the sands of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan, the 173rd has always put our country and values first.”
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