From Main Street to Long Beach, Sag Harbor was dripping in red, white and blue on Saturday, as cyclists and walkers participated in the Soldier Ride, the Hamptons, to honor Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. JoAnn Lyles, Haerter’s mother, said it was poignant to watch as several disabled soldiers and marines rode on adaptive bikes over the bridge linking Sag Harbor and North Haven, which was recently renamed in her son’s honor, a Sag Harbor native who was killed last year in Iraq. A number of local veterans formed a line on the median, each holding an American flag and saluting the service men and women, many without limbs, as they paddled by.
Over 400 people registered to participate in Saturday’s event, but including the crowds of locals and visitors who cheered the cyclists and walkers on, Haerter’s father Christian believed closer to 800 people were in attendance. The event was comprised of a 28-mile or 65-mile bike ride and a 4-mile walk from Long Wharf to Long Beach. The 28-mile route started at the Amagansett American Legion, went through Sag Harbor and ended in Amagansett. The 65-mile route ended at the Montauk Lighthouse. A ceremony was held mid-way through the event on the Long Wharf. Haerter’s parents, Reggie Cornelia, a Soldier Ride organizer, actor Dan Akroyd, and the Lieutenant of Jordan’s platoon, Lieutenant Dan Runzheimer, spoke at the ceremony.
According to Chris Carney, one of the founders of Soldier Ride, the event and a silent auction held on Saturday raised around $200,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, a not-for-profit organization aimed at providing support for wounded service men and women.
“Checks are still coming in . . . but all said and done we raised over $200,000 which in this current economic atmosphere is amazing,” noted Carney. “We didn’t have a target [for our fundraising] . . . While the funds are desperately needed for the Wounded Warrior Project to continue, when they, [the service men and women], come up here it is really about them.”
Soldier Ride, said Carney, is also a rehabilitative event, meant to connect wounded service men and women and help them remain active despite their disabilities. As the cyclists completed a victory lap through Main Street, the public seemed to be touched by these men and women’s perseverance.
“ I think a lot of people read about the sacrifices [made by service men and women], but when you are confronted with somebody who has lost their leg, they realize that this is a reality,” remarked Haerter. “I saw a lot of people weeping when they saw [the cyclists’] determination and pride.”
Almost 26 Marines from Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter’s platoon cycled in the event. The celebrations on Saturday, however, were bittersweet for these marines. On Friday, they learned a former member of their platoon Corporal Nicholas Xiarhos, who fought alongside Haerter, was recently killed in Afghanistan. As the young men made their way back to Amagansett, they took a detour to Oakland Cemetery, where Haerter is buried, to pay their respects.
The men, along with 24 others, made up “Team Jordan” which was sponsored by Lyles and Christian Haerter. The team, said Haerter, raised almost $17,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, far exceeding his expectations.
According to Carney, the event in Sag Harbor will most likely be held again next year.
“I had so many people come up to me one Sunday, saying ‘next year we should do this.” They want to get more involved,” said Carney. “Soldier Ride continues to snowball as the word gets out . . . We are a unique organization because you can see and be apart of the people you are helping.”