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Salute for A Hero: Navy Cross for Jordan Haerter; President Singles Out Sag Harbor Native in Friday’s Speech

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ceremony honoring Jordan haerter

A week after Sag Harbor’s L/Cpl Jordan Haerter was honored posthumously with the Navy Cross for his act of heroism saving the lives of dozens of fellow Marines from a suicide bomber last year, he was singled out in President Barack Obama’s speech this Friday morning, February 27, at Camp LeJeune, where Haerter had done his basic training. In his speech, Obama declared the combat mission in Iraq would end by August 31, 2010, and he praised the servicemen and women who fought to liberate the country. In particular he lauded those who gave their lives, mentioning L/Cpl Haerter and the other Marine who died with him that day, Corporal Jonathan T. Yale.

“In an age when suicide is a weapon, they were suddenly faced with an oncoming truck filled with explosives,” the president said on Friday. “These two Marines stood their ground. These two Marines opened fire. And these two Marines stopped that truck. When the thousands of pounds of explosives detonated, they had saved fifty Marines and Iraqi police who would have been in the truck’s path.”For an excerpt and video of the speech, see the end of this post.    

It was just after 2 a.m. when the bus pulled out of the Pierson High School parking lot in Sag Harbor last Friday, February 20 — headed for the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia for an 11 a.m. ceremony, posthumously awarding the Navy Cross Medal to Lance Cpl. Haerter.
It was a decision made by the Secretary of the Navy, the highest-ranking military official — second only to the United States President, that two particular men receive the award for valor.The Navy Cross is the second highest medal awarded for valor in the military, next to the Medal of Honor.
Haerter was a 2006 Pierson graduate, enlisted into the Marines and sent to Iraq last year. His duties came to an abrupt end when he, along with Corporal Yale, were mortally wounded, defending their post from a suicide truck attack in Ramadi, Iraq.

As the two Marines held their positions at a checkpoint just outside a security station, they motioned for the truck to slow down. Both Haeter and Yale noticed the truck was ignoring their requests and identified the vehicle as a threat. They shot at the truck, killing the driver, but at the same time, setting off the 2000 pounds of explosives in the vehicle. Both Haerter, 19 and Yale, 21, belonged to the First Battalion, Ninth Marines. Now they are credited with saving 33 of their own men, and hundreds of others through their heroic efforts.
As friends, family, and military personnel found their way to their seats on Friday at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, Marines surrounded the room, poised at attention.
Haerter’s father, Christian, recalled walking through the museum, when he first arrived, and said it was “breathtaking.”
“It was like a shrine to the Marines,” he said, “a lot of history oozes from there, and to know that we were there specifically in honor of Jordan, brought tears to my eyes.”
As the Marines escorted people into the museum, portraits of both Haerter and Yale stood on easels, underscoring the story of their heroism for everyone who entered that day.
Christian also added there were small framed photos of both Haerter and Yale in the gift shop, with their dates of birth and death. He said he saw those photos and realized what his son’s heroism meant to so many others.
The ceremony began with the Marine band playing the National Anthem.
The men in the One-Eight and One-Nine battalions then “snapped to attention,” according to JoAnn Lyles, Jordan’s mother, as Secretary of the Navy, David Witnner looked them over, to make sure their uniforms were up to military standards. He then released them to parade rest and gave his speech.
“The ceremony was really beautiful,” Lyles recalled. She said the secretary spoke “eloquently” about both young men being honored that day.

“Today’s ceremony is a great occasion to give the American people some sense of the debt we owe to our Marines and to all of our military forces who defend freedom around the world,” said Witnner, the day’s only speaker.
“Jonathan and Jordan are shining examples of the promise of America’s next generation,” Witnner continued. “They could have had many other opportunities in life. Yet they chose to leave these things behind and devote themselves instead to the calling of their country. They gave their lives as they lived them, for truths as emphatic as they are simple: Brotherhood. Loyalty. Devotion. Sacrifice. Extraordinary Heroism—those words epitomize their last selfless act on this Earth.”
Lyles said, amid tears, that she had mixed emotions sitting, listening to the speech.
“As the citations were being read, all the military stood [out of respect] and we were told to stay seated,” Lyles said.
“It was tough,” she said, “it was truly an honor and I was fighting back tears.”
First Witnner stood in front of Yale’s wife, and read the entire citation to her. Then, Witnner moved to both Lyles and Christian and read the citation to them. Witnner presented each parent with the Navy Cross.

During reception ceremony, Tom Toole, a Sag Harbor native and retiree from the U.S. Air Force, who knew Haerter from a young boy, gave Lyles and Christian a hand-made shadow box, made of cherry wood, with replicas of all Haerter’s medals, his dog tags and a reproduction of the Navy Cross inside. Toole also gave each of them a flag that flew over the capital in Albany.
Lyles said now, in her living room, she has a new coffee table, with a velvet lined draw and a glass cover to showcase her son’s achievements.
Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris and Assemblyman Fred W. Theile Jr. both flew down to Virginia Friday morning to participate in the honoring of the two young men.
Ferraris felt the ceremony was impressive and said he was “deeply honored to be able to witness this event, and humbled at the same time.” He added that Haerter was being awarded for such an amazing sacrifice.
Christian said that now, as he sits and reflects on the experience, he told his friend this very same thing:
“I’ve kind of come to realize and accept Jordan’s death. The thing that is hard to believe is the magnitude of what Jordan accomplished and the sacrifice that allowed him to do what he did that day.”

From President Barack Obama’s speech at Camp LeJeune, February 27, 2009:

“The starting point for our policies must always be the safety of the American people. I know that you – the men and women of the finest fighting force in the history of the world – can meet any challenge, and defeat any foe. And as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I promise you that I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and provide you with the equipment and support you need to get the job done. That is the most important lesson of all – for the consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable.

You know because you have seen those sacrifices. You have lived them. And we all honor them.

“Semper Fidelis” – it means always being faithful to Corps, and to country, and to the memory of fallen comrades like Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. These young men enlisted in a time of war, knowing they would face great danger. They came here, to Camp Lejeune, as they trained for their mission. And last April, they were standing guard in Anbar. In an age when suicide is a weapon, they were suddenly faced with an oncoming truck filled with explosives. These two Marines stood their ground. These two Marines opened fire. And these two Marines stopped that truck. When the thousands of pounds of explosives detonated, they had saved fifty Marines and Iraqi police who would have been in the truck’s path, but Corporal Yale and Lance Corporal Haerter lost their own lives. Jonathan was 21. Jordan was 19.

In the town where Jordan Haerter was from, a bridge was dedicated in his name. One Marine who traveled to the ceremony said: “We flew here from all over the country to pay tribute to our friend Jordan, who risked his life to save us. We wouldn’t be here without him.”

America’s time in Iraq is filled with stories of men and women like this. Their names are written into bridges and town squares. They are etched into stones at Arlington, and in quiet places of rest across our land. They are spoken in schools and on city blocks. They live on in the memories of those who wear your uniform, in the hearts of those they loved, and in the freedom of the nation they served.”

Haerter to Receive Navy Cross

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This Friday, friends, family and members of the community will be traveling to Virginia to attend a ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, where Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter will posthumously be awarded the Navy Cross – the highest medal for bravery given by the Department of the Navy.

JoAnn Lyles, Jordan’s mother, said the Marines are expecting around 400 people to attend Friday’s ceremony, which will begin at 11 a.m. at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia at the Quantico Marine Base.

Haerter, a 2006 Pierson High school graduate, joined the Marines after getting his diploma. He was sent to Iraq, and after just one month, the 19-year-old and fellow Marine, Cpl. Jonathon T. Yale, 21-years-old from Burkesville, Va., saved the lives of 33 Marines, dozens of Iraqi police and hundreds of Iraqi citizens by stopping a suicide bomber from entering their territory.

For their efforts, both Marines will posthumously receive the Navy Cross, the second highest honor of all the armed forces, just behind the Medal of Honor, with the families accepting the medals.

According to Lyles, Lt. Col. Brett Bourne, commander of the Battalion, learned that the two Marines would be receiving the medal as he was driving back from November’s Sag Harbor Bridge Dedication in honor of Haerter.

It is going to be a proud day for all Marines,” said Lyles, “some of the people attending are from the 1-9 [First Battalion, Ninth Marines, the same Battalion as Jordan and Yale], from the Vietnam error.”

The Haerters, both Jordan’s father, Christian and Lyles, will meet Yale’s family for the very first time on Friday.

Lyles organized a Hampton Jitney bus for those looking to attend the ceremony, which originally had a cost attached to it. After learning of the trip, the Suffolk Police Veterans Association offered to pay the entire cost of the charter, and a guided tour through the museum.

On Tuesday, Lyles said she has learned that a tour guide at the museum has already added Yale and Haerter’s story to her tour. The guide will explain the story of both Marines and how their story is similar to that of Marine’s in Beirut. JoAnn said the make and model of truck was the same in both cases. On her blog, the tour guide said the theme she uses to explain the connection between both cases is “how Marines know they can count on each other.”

Further, she said Marines “do the things they do because they know there are other Marines counting on them. Indirectly, they do what they do because there are civilians counting on them, too.”

L/Cpl Jordan Haerter to Receive Navy Cross Posthumously

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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 sagfolks@optonline.net.

 

 

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.