By Bryan Boyhan
Jordan Haerter’s life has been celebrated in many ways since he was killed in Iraq two years ago today. This summer his heroism will be the subject of an illustration in a magazine for his fellow U.S. Marines.
The Sag Harbor native had been in Ramadi, Iraq for only a month when he was assigned to guard an entry control point. A truck carrying explosives driven by a determined suicide bomber refused to yield as it careened down an alley toward Haerter’s post, behind which were dozens of Marines. Lance Cpl. Haerter and Corporal Jonathan Yale, without regard for their own lives, opened fire at the truck, killing the driver, but not before the truck detonated. They perished, but their actions have been credited with not only saving the lives of the other Marines, but also hundreds of citizens and Iraqi police.
In the wake of the incident, Haerter has been heralded as a hero, and posthumously received the Navy Cross, among other awards, has had a monument erected in his honor in Sag Harbor and, in a ceremony that attracted about a thousand people, including local elected officials and military personnel from across Long Island, the bridge that connects Sag Harbor to North Haven was named in his honor.
Now, Haerter and Yale’s exploits will be part of a new feature in Marines Magazine, a quarterly publication that reaches 80,000 to 100,000 Marines and their families. The feature is a way of telling the stories of ordinary Marines who exhibit extraordinary heroism. The first edition of the feature, called “Sharing the Courage,” illustrated Sgt. Major Brad Kasal who threw himself on top of a grenade to protect fellow Marines during a fight, said Staff Sergeant Paul Kane, who is the art director for the series. The second episode will feature Haerter and Yale and will be out this July.
“When they give out heroism awards, the actions are largely just summarized on a one page citation,” observed S/Sgt. Kane. The illustrated stories that are being published in Marines Magazine help bring those stories to life.
“The illustration sort of speaks for itself,” said Kane of the drawings for Haerter and Yale. “We’ll insert some text boxes to help tell the story.”
Kane, who is in charge of selecting the stories, has fertile ground to select from. He visited the awards branch of the service to look at what had been issued since 9/11.
“Some awards are specifically for heroism,” and still there were about two thousand. “The Marine Corps is very rigorous in giving these awards,” said Kane. “I wanted those that were truly heroic.”
In Haerter’s case, Kane also stumbled upon video of the incident — a rarity — which showed remarkable detail.
“We knew where they were located,” said Kane, “we knew, for example the color of the truck was blue.”
In an interview with Marine Corps Times, Sgt. Kristopher Battles, who is the artist creating the panels, said “We are trying to run a hybrid between the comic book — with its straightforward method of communication — and realism, so we say this is a real act of heroism. These are not super-men — or super-Marines. They are ‘everymen’ in extraordinary circumstances.”
“It is a good educating tool,” observed Kane, and helps to illustrate to Marines, “this is what you do.”
“There really is a selflessness — it is not just roboticized,” he said. “They made a conscious effort to give up their lives.”