Mukherji, Oliver, Tucker and Andrzejczak Bill to Honor Fallen Marine Advanced By Assembly Panel

Bipartisan legislation Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Sheila Oliver, Cleopatra Tucker and Sgt. Bob Andrzejczak sponsored that would designate the Easton-Phillipsburg Toll Bridge as the “Sergeant William John Cahir Memorial Bridge” was advanced on Monday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-3375) would serve to recognize the life and sacrifice of Sgt. Bill Cahir, a Marine reservist in the 4th Civil Affairs Group who died on August 13, 2009 during a tour in Afghanistan.

“It is a true honor to have served alongside a gung-ho Marine with the dedication, integrity and selflessness of Bill Cahir,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson), who was a sergeant in the Reserve with Cahir. “Before he even put on the uniform, Bill demonstrated persistence in order to enlist past the age cutoff. That’s the kind of guy he was. That’s how much he wanted to serve his country. I will always remember this journalist, public servant and Marine hero as a friend. I hope that this legislation, in a small way, will serve to remind us of his heroism.”

“Sgt. Cahir volunteered to defend this nation at a time of war. While it is human nature to do everything to escape grave danger, he chose to face it valiantly in defense of the United States of America,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “In the period of uncertainty in the years after 9/11, Sgt. Cahir saw an opportunity to express his devotion to this country and the freedom for which it stands. This bill represents a tribute to his great courage and an immeasurable showing of gratitude from our state for his service.”

“The untimely death of a serviceman is always tragic, but when you consider that there are two little girls who will never know their father, there is an additional element of heartbreak that amplifies the gravity of Sgt. Cahir’s sacrifice,” said Tucker (D-Essex), Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee chair. “May our dedication of this bridge serve as an everlasting reminder to those girls that their dad died so that they could grow up in a land where they are free to pursue their dreams.”

“As a veteran, I have seen up close many of the atrocities of war, but as a father and a husband, I cannot bear to imagine the hardship my family would endure in my absence,” said Sgt. Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland), who lost a leg while serving in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army. “With this legislation, we honor Sgt. Cahir first and foremost, but we also establish a tangible legacy for his wife and his two daughters. Although he is gone, we have a duty to ensure that his sacrifice is never forgotten.”

A recipient of the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and other decorations, Cahir obtained an age waiver to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 2003 at the age of 34. Cahir, a Bellefonte, Pa. native, completed two tours in Iraq and was in 2009 deployed for a tour in Afghanistan. He was shot and killed by enemy fire in Helmand Province while on patrol during a pre-dawn offensive operation intended to cut Taliban trade and supply lines in order to allow local Afghans to vote in the country’s presidential election.

Prior to enlisting in the Marines, the former journalist worked as a correspondent for the Newhouse News Service and The Express-Times, which serves Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey and Lehigh and Northampton counties in Pennsylvania. His work regularly appeared in numerous New Jersey newspapers. The Pennsylvania State University graduate displayed a commitment to public service as a staffer to Sens. Edward Kennedy and Harris Wofford and as a 2008 candidate for Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District.

Cahir was survived by his wife, René Browne, who was pregnant with their twin daughters Caroline and Elizabeth at the time of his tragic death.

The bill was released by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The Easton-Phillipsburg Toll Bridge carries U.S. Route 22 over the Delaware River and connects Easton, Pa. and Phillipsburg, N.J. The bridge is operated by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, a bi-state agency.