For the second year in a row, Solider Ride, the Hamptons is dedicated to Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, a marine who was killed a year ago in Iraq, but this year’s event will bring the fundraiser to Haerter’s hometown of Sag Harbor.
Soldier Ride, the Hamptons will take place on Saturday, July 25 and will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization founded by Joe Melia to provide support for U.S. servicemen and women returning to the United States after overseas combat. Whether it be Wounded Warrior’s signature backpack filled with toiletries, amenities and clothing, or outreach, career counseling, advocacy, family and coping services, the Wounded Warrior Project is dedicated to providing resources for servicemen and women returning from overseas, many with life altering injuries.
Soldier Ride has also evolved to become a rehabilitative sporting event for injured soldiers, some who are learning to live with injuries that have resulted in amputation.
This year’s route for both the 28-mile or 65-mile bike ride or four mile walk brings the event through Sag Harbor Village, with a special tribute to Lance Corporal Haerter scheduled to begin on Long Wharf at 11:30 a.m., roughly half way through part of the scheduled bike ride. The Sag Harbor walk will commence after the tribute with “Honor Our Heroes,” which will feature Chris Carney, an East Hampton resident who took part in the inaugural cross country Soldier Ride in 2004, and the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines riding down Main Street and over the Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge leading the beginning of the Sag Harbor leg of the event.
Participants can choose to just be a part of the Sag Harbor walk or can ride in the 28-mile cycling event that will loop riders from the Amagansett American Legion through Sag Harbor and back to Amagansett. A 65-mile event will have cyclists start in Amagansett bring them through Sag Harbor and end at the Montauk Lighthouse, a Soldier Ride tradition since that first cross country ride began there in 2004. The following year, the cross-country cycle ended there as well.
Haerter’s mother, JoAnn Lyles, who along with Jordan’s father, Christian Haerter, have sponsored a team in their son’s name, remembers Carney’s inaugural trek – the first of what has become many Soldier Ride events nationwide. She said on Tuesday it was not until last year, when the organization honored Jordan’s sacrifice, that she became involved in the group.
Lance Corporal Haerter, a 2006 graduate of Pierson High School, was killed outside the city of Ramadhi in April of 2008. The 19-year-old U.S. Marine had just reached the one-month mark in his first tour of duty in Iraq when a suicide bomber drove into a checkpoint he was guarding, detonating the vehicle. The actions and sacrifice of Lance Corporal Haerter and Corporal Jonathan Yale of Virginia, both of whom died trying to stop the suicide bomber, saved the lives of over 50 marines and members of the Iraqi police force, according to military reports.
Lance Corporal Haerter has posthumously received the highest of military honors, including the Navy Cross Medal and the Purple Heart Medal.
Since his death, the Sag Harbor/North Haven Bridge was renamed in his honor, and his father has begun Jordan’s Initiative, a memorial fund to supply deployed troops and returning servicemen and women resources.
For Lyles, getting involved with the Wounded Warrior Project and Soldier Ride is something she feels she can do to give back in a meaningful way, but acknowledged being a part of the organization has also helped her.
“I think I can offer them a lot in terms of being a local, but this also does so much for me,” she said on Tuesday. “It feels good to be proactive and doing proactive things to help such an important cause.”
Reg Cornelia is one of several Solider Ride coordinators who has ensured the project’s success over the last five years. Stephen Talkhouse owner Peter Honerkamp helped conceive the idea with Carney taking on the roll of cross country bike rider for two summers, raising thousands for the Wounded Warrior Project and beginning Soldier Ride, which now has events across the country.
On Tuesday, Cornelia said once the group heard about Jordan’s death in Iraq, they felt it was appropriate to honor the Sag Harbor native in any way they could.
“That is what this program is about, recognizing and appreciating what these guys are doing,” said Cornelia.
Lyles has sponsored “Team Jordan” for the second year in a row and already has 29 members competing in Jordan’s name. Another team will also be made up of over two-dozen marines flying in from Iraq, some who served with Jordan, said Lyles. A flyover, the Patriot Guard lining the Lance Corporal Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge, and the “Honor our Heroes” lap will also be a part of the tribute to Jordan. This year Lyles said she looks forward to being able to talk with marines and servicemen and women who participate in this year’s event.
“It will definitely be an emotional time, but a good time,” she said. “Last year, it was still too fresh and I met a lot of these people, but I was not able to talk to them as much as I would have liked. This year, I want to talk to them more.”
Riders and walkers interested in signing up to participate in Soldier Ride on July 25 can register online at http://soldierride.kintera.org/faf/home. The site is also available for those who wish to donate to the organization. Early registration will be held on July 18 and July 19 at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett and at the Windmill on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. For more information, call 267-3142.