Legislation (S-650) sponsored by Senator Michael Doherty (R-23) designating Route 173 between Clinton in Hunterdon County and Phillipsburg in Warren County as the “173rd Airborne Brigade Highway” in honor of the brigade’s many years of heroism and sacrifice in defense of our country’s freedom has been signed into law.
“From service in France during World War I to recent deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ‘Sky Soldiers’ of the 173rd Airborne Brigade have distinguished themselves for nearly a century,” said Doherty. “It is fitting that New Jersey honor the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s service and sacrifice by naming part of Rt. 173 in their honor.”
The brigade was first constituted as the 173rd Infantry Brigade and deployed to France during World War I, and later designated the 87th Reconnaissance Troop during World War II, entering combat in 1944 and serving in central European, Rhineland and Ardennes-Alsace operations.
The brigade was reconstituted as a separate brigade and special airborne task force, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, as part of an Army reorganization in the early 1960s. They brigade, which earned the moniker “Sky Soldiers,” was the first Army unit sent into the republic of South Vietnam in May, 1965.
For the brave service of its members in Vietnam, as a whole, the brigade earned four unit citations, 13 Medals of Honor, and over 130 distinguished service crosses.
Nearly 1,000 members of the brigade participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and between 2005 and 2010 the brigade served three tours in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Doherty’s legislation was first introduced in the prior legislative session at the suggestion of the Gem Vac Veterans, a local veterans group that counts as its members some who served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The legislation was reintroduced at the beginning of the current session on January 14, 2014.
“When the Gem Vac Veterans approached me with the idea to do this, I realized it would be a wonderful way to pay our respect to the 173rd Airborne Brigade for its long-standing service to our nation,” said Doherty.
Under the legislation, no State funds would be used to produce, purchase or erect the signs marking the designated portions of Rt. 173, with all funds supplied by private sources.
A similar funding model has been successfully employed to pay for signs designating Rt. 31 as the “Tri-County Purple Heart Memorial Highway,” a measure also sponsored by Doherty, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and former Captain in the United States Army.