Two weeks before his son Jordan was killed at a military checkpoint in the Anbar Province of Iraq in April, Christian Haerter was tinkering with a broken, laptop computer. His son shipped it back to the states in hope his father could fix it, and he did. It didn’t take his father long either. He simply ordered a part, replaced it and shipped the laptop back to his son, one week before he died.
Since Jordan’s death the computer has been going back and forth from Ramadi, where he was stationed as a Marine, to the central, military post office in Kuwait. For some reason it had not made it back to the Haerter family. But Lieutenant Colonel Bourne made it his mission to return the computer to Sag Harbor.
“I think he was embarrassed and frustrated they couldn’t get it to us,” said Jordan’s mother JoAnn Lyles.
The Lieutenant Colonel decided to take matters into his own hands and ordered 21-year old Lance Corporal Cody Israel, who served in the same platoon as Haerter and who was at the checkpoint the day it was breached by a suicide bomber, to deliver the computer in person to Jordan’s family.
Israel arrived in Sag Harbor last Thursday. He flew from Ramadi to Kuwait to Ireland, to Atlanta and then to New York. He was deputized as a postal courier before he left the Middle East which allowed him to travel through customs without opening the package.
“I saw him walking up the driveway with the package and my first thought was, it’s been pretty much destroyed or it’s not the correct package,” said Christian.
It was the latter. Instead of the computer, it was a care package that Jordan’s mother mailed to him one week before he passed away.
“There was a copy of the Sag harbor Express, the missing Marine issue. He wanted to know what was happening with Maggie [McMahon],” said Lyles. “There was a first textbook for police training.”
Jordan had aspirations of returning to Sag Harbor to be a police officer.
“There was a book light and then just mints and stuff.”
Neither of Jordan’s parents was upset about the missing computer. With L/Cpl. Israel only an arm’s length away, the computer seemed trivial. Cody and Jordan were more than just fellow Marines; they were roommates at Camp Lejeune, which meant they knew everything about each other. Israel also knew exactly what happened on the day Jordan died.
“When I first met with him, it was pretty emotional,” said Christian. “He was actually in the compound that day when Jordan was killed and there’s not a lot of people who can say that. It’s important to me to be able to speak to somebody who was that close when the incident happened.”
Christian said Cody told him that after the breach, there was no time to grieve, that the platoon essentially worked for five days straight just trying to secure the compound.
He said he sensed the trip was not easy for Israel, who is from Church Pointe, Louisiana, a small town west of Baton Rouge. Israel told Christian that when he was in the Atlanta airport waiting for his flight to New York, he looked up at one of the departure screens and noticed a flight to New Orleans.
“He said he thought, ‘Oh it’s so close’,” said Christian.
The trip to the states was the first time Israel had left Iraq since he shipped out in March. But because of the short notice, the cost of air travel, and the job his mother works back in Louisiana, Israel’s parents were unable to make the trip up to see him while he was in Sag Harbor. And then there’s the fact that Israel had to leave his fellow Marines to come here.
“I don’t think he really wanted to come. They form a pretty tight bond and he didn’t want to actually leave them,” said Christian. “I can only imagine it must be extremely difficult to go from 135 degree heat, walking the streets of Ramadi, to laying on the beach in the Hamptons and then having to go back.”
Christian and JoAnn tried to make the three-day visit to Sag Harbor as comfortable as possible for Israel, primarily by feeding him.
“We tried our best to stuff him,” said Christian.
On Thursday they took Israel to Il Capuccino. On Friday, it was La Superica with Nicole Jonat, Jordan’s girlfriend. After that, they went to Long Beach. To her surprise, Lyles said a group of Jordan’s old classmates showed up to meet Israel. They traded stories about Jordan as the sun set over Noyac Bay.
“He told us how they used to play tricks on Jordan back at camp,” said Lyles. “They would tell him they had the day off, and would watch him get all dressed in his [civilian clothes] and then laugh at him.”
On Saturday they had a small cook-out at Lyle’s house where they tried to stuff Israel even more.
“We had swordfish, and ribs and chicken wings. There was a little bit of everything,” said Lyles.
Then they took him to the recently dedicated Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge. And on Sunday Israel flew back to Iraq.
As far as the computer goes, Lyles chalked it up to the military’s strict protocol for casualty mail. Israel was never told what he was carrying.
She said meeting him was “priceless.”
“I could not believe he came,” said Lyles. “It felt so good to hug him. I gave him a hug to give all of the guys back in Iraq. It had to be a hard job for him, knowing the circumstances, but he did good.”
“It was more important for me to be able to sit down and talk with Cody and first, make sure he was okay and to make sure all of the guys that were over there with Jordan were okay.”
Photo: L/Cpl Cody Israel traveled from Iraq to bring a package to the parents of L/Cpl Jordan Haerter.