The Secretary of the Navy, Donald C. Winter, is scheduled to present Navy Cross medals, posthumously, to Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, from Sag Harbor, N.Y., and Cpl. Jonathan T. Yale, from Burkeville, Va., at a ceremony February 20 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps near Quantico, Va.
The Navy Cross is the highest medal for valor awarded by the Department of the Navy and across the armed forces is second only to the Medal of Honor. To date, 25 Navy Crosses have been awarded in the Global War on Terror.
Haerter and Yale were infantrymen assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, serving with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, and 2nd Bn., 8th Marines, respectively, and were killed in action while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The morning of April 22, 2008, according to Haerter and Yale’s personal award recommendations, a truck began to rapidly negotiate the obstacles leading to an entry control point in Ramadi, Iraq, where Haerter and Yale were standing post. The two Marines quickly recognized the threat a suicide bomber driving a truck capable of carrying a large quantity of explosives posed to the Marines and Iraqi policeman in the area and engaged the truck with precise fire.
As a result of their actions, the truck stopped a few feet from their positions and the suicide bomber detonated the approximately 2,000 pounds of explosives in the truck, leveling the entry control point and mortally wounding the two Marines.
“The explosion blew out all of the windows over 150 meters from where the blast hit,” said Lance Cpl. Benjamin Tupaj, a rifleman with 3rd Platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Bn., 9th Marines. “They saved all of our lives, if it wasn’t for them that gate probably wouldn’t have held. If that truck had made it into the compound, there would’ve been a lot more casualties. They saved everyone’s life here.”
Haerter and Yale’s personal award recommendations credit them with saving the lives of 50 Marines and Iraqi policemen.
Bus to Quantico
On Friday, February 20, a chartered bus will travel from Sag Harbor to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia, Quantico Marine Base where LCpl Jordan C. Haerter, USMC along with Cpl. Jonathan T. Yale will be posthumously awarded the Navy Cross with Extraordinary Heroism.
For Sag Harbor residents interested in attending the ceremony, a Hampton Jitney chartered bus, will depart from Pierson High School parking lot, 200 Jermain Ave, Sag Harbor at 2 a.m. on Friday, February 20. Additional pick-up locations will be at the “Park and Ride” Exit 49 on the Long Island Expressway, Route 110 Huntington and another stop is at Bryant Park in New York City between 40th and 42nd streets and 5th and 6th Avenues. The ceremony is at 11 a.m. in the museum’s Leatherneck Gallery. A free guided tour of the museum is available following the ceremony. The return trip will bring riders back to their boarding locations, reaching Sag Harbor at 2 a.m. on Saturday.
The Suffolk Police Veterans Association has donated the entire cost of the charter — the bus ride and museum admission is now free to all veterans and friends who would like to attend the ceremony honoring Haerter and Yale.
Those interested in making the trip should contact Jordan’s Mom, JoAnn Lyles, at 725-1788 or 996-3291. She can also be reached at email@example.com.
A History of the Navy Cross
The years of the “Great War” were not easy ones for the men and women in the naval service. The Herculean task of transporting and escorting the hundreds of thousands of troops of the American Expeditionary Force to Europe, the growing pains of fielding new aviation and submarine elements and the savage fighting of sailors and Marines on battlefields across France all lay at the feet of the naval service. Along with this came an increase in the size of the naval service to its largest at that time, and the task of working hand-in-hand with Allied counterparts.
New to this experience was the European custom of one nation decorating heroes of another nation. The United States, with the Medal of Honor as its sole decoration, was caught unprepared not only for this custom, but also had no appropriate award to recognize heroism of a level less than that which would merit the Medal of Honor and no decoration to reward the myriad acts of meritorious non-combat service that the war would spur.
The U.S. Army shared this dilemma and with the aid of President Woodrow Wilson and the Congress in early and mid-1918 instituted its Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) with clear guidelines for the award of the Distinguished Service Cross for combat heroism and the DSM award for distinguished non-combat duty in a position of great responsibility. This pair was available in time for awarding during World War I.
Parallel awards were created a year later for the Navy and Marine Corps, months after the armistice and amid the massive demobilization of forces.
No prouder decorations exist today than the Navy Cross and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, but their creation and early award were fraught with controversy, ambiguity and confusion.
As enacted February 4, 1919, the Navy Cross was the naval services third-highest award and could be awarded for both combat heroism and for other distinguished service. Many, for instance, were earned for extraordinary diving and salvage feats. As originally third in precedence behind the Medal or Honor and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, more than one Navy Cross recipient regarded its award as a “snub” in lieu of the Distinguished Service Medal.
The same act established the Distinguished Service Medal. Both decorations could be awarded retroactive to April 6, 1917. It would be 23 years and a August 7, 1942 action by Congress that would place the Navy Cross just beneath the Medal of Honor, and limit its award to combat-only recognition.
The Navy Cross was designed by James Earle Fraser, a distinguished sculptor, member of the nation’s Fine Arts Commission and designer of the obverse of the Victory Medal and an early version of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. The Navy Cross’ arguable resemblance to Great Britain’s Navy Distinguished Service Cross is noteworthy, but not elaborated upon in any records. Fraser experimented with the image of a World War I-era destroyer on the medal, but finally opted for the more timeless, flowing lines of a 15th-century caraval or sailing ship.
Subtle variations have marked the evolution of the Navy Cross from 1919 to the present. One constant has been the actual medal, which has been struck from the same die and is of three-part construction: the cross itself and the front and back medallions, which are struck separately and subsequently soldered together. Current forgers almost always strike their fakes in one piece, allowing the studied eye one method of detecting frauds
The earliest issues of the Navy Cross (1919-1928) had a very narrow white stripe centered on the blue ribbon and a planchet of dull, sometimes greenish bronze. Some were awarded with the planchet reversed, the sailing ship being placed on the back and the crossed anchors and “USN” on the front. A split broach with an open-pin catch was used.
Later issues (1928-1941) had the customary 1/4-inch white stripe and a somewhat darker, gunmetal bronze finish.
One legendary variation picked up the informal nickname “Black Widow” and was in use about 1941-1942, in which the medal itself and its wrap broach were over-anodized and sported a very dark, even black finish. Ironically, many of the “Black Widow” awards were posthumous.
Midway through World War II, contracts specified the original dull bronze finish seen in the years since.
Presently, the Navy Cross is awarded to a person who distinguishes himself or herself by extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of the Medal of Honor. To warrant this distinctive decoration, the act or the execution of duty must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk.