State Legislators Working to Name Bridge for State College Native Bill Cahir
State College native Bill Cahir lived a relatively short life, but he found time to make a name for himself as a journalist, U.S. Marine and politician.
Now there's a growing movement to place his name on a major bridge linking Pennsylvania to New Jersey.
Cahir, a Penn State graduate, was working as a journalist in Washington, DC when he quit to join the Marines in the aftermath of the 9-11 terror attacks. The Marines had to grant an exception to its age restriction rules because Cahir was already 34-years-old at the time.
He served two tours of duty in Iraq and was shot and killed while on patrol in Afghanistan on Aug. 13, 2009.
In between stints in the military Cahir took a shot at politics. In 2008, Cahir launched a run for Congress in Pennsylvania's 5th Congressional District, which includes State College. He finished in second place in the Democratic primary.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently signed legislation that would rename the Phillipsburg-Easton toll bridge, which spans the Delaware River, as the the Sergeant William John Cahir Memorial Bridge.
Cahir (pronounced "care") was known on both sides of the river because of his work as a news reporter in the region during the 1990s.
Because the bridge is owned by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, the Pennsylvania legislature will also have to approve renaming the bridge. Pennsylvania state Rep. Robert Freeman, (D-Northampton County) is sponsoring legislation to change the name. The bridge sits inside Freeman's district.
"I thought it was a great way to honor his life and his service," Freeman tells StateCollege.com.
Rep. Scott Conklin (D-Centre) has signed on as one of the sponsors according to spokesperson Tor Michaels. "We welcome the honor," says Michaels.
Cahir's parents, John and Mary Anne Cahir, live in State College. Asked about the push to name the bridge in his son's memory, John Cahir says, "We're delighted with any recognition of Bill."
Cahir was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
He left behind a wife, Rene, who was pregnant with twin girls when he was killed. The girls, who never met their father, will turn five in December.
On Wednesday, the family gathered in Arlington to remember Cahir on the fifth anniversary of his death. His father says Bill's twin daughters are too young to understand war, adding, "They asked a lot of questions. ... They know the reason that daddy isn't here is he's there (at Arlington)."
John Cahir says his son was serving in Civil Affairs, helping people in Iraq and Afghanistan improve their lives. "Anybody who's willing to put on that uniform and do the things you have to do certainly has my admiration," he says.
Freeman hopes to introduce legislation to rename the bridge in the next week or so and would like to see the house vote on it the first week of September.