WHEN JOANN LYLES’ SON JORDAN was brought home to rest in Sag Harbor after perishing defending an entry control point in the Sophia region of Ramadi, Iraq in April of 2008, she was greeted by a solemn, but grateful, hometown decked out in red, white and blue – symbolic of the country Marine Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter signed up to defend.
This Saturday, Lyles hopes residents and business owners in the Sag Harbor area give as proud a welcome to the wounded warriors who will ride with community members from across the East End in Soldier Ride — an event that supports the Wounded Warrior Project, a not-for-profit organization that provides support and rehabilitation opportunities for servicemen and servicewomen and their families.
“It was overwhelming,” said Lyles on Tuesday. “What happened for Jordan and for [Army First Lieutenant] Joseph Theinert [a Shelter Island resident killed this June in Afghanistan] – seeing that you just know that people care and I think the wounded warriors will all feel that this weekend. So many servicemen, in particular from the Vietnam era, never got the welcome home they deserve and as a mother seeing people thank them for service, it means a lot.”
Lyles’ organization, In Jordan’s Honor, is sponsoring two contests Saturday for Sag Harbor residents, community groups and businesses, and plans to award prizes for “Most Patriotic Display” and “Shows the Most Spirit.” Lyles’ is encouraging people on the Soldier Ride cycling and walking routes in Sag Harbor, which includes Main Street, to decorate homes and businesses in red, white and blue, display flags, set up water stations for riders, make signs supporting their troops and line the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge and Main Street to support participants in Soldier Ride, in particular, veterans riding in the event.
Lyles borrowed the idea from Tim and Janet Scherer, of East Northport, whose son Corporal Christopher Sherer died at age 21 from wounds sustained in combat in the Anbar province of Iraq in July of 2007. The couple hosts a walk and run, “I Did the Grid” Memorial Day weekend and hand out similar awards for patriotic displays. Inspired, Lyles said she hopes it will draw people to support the Soldier Ride event.
This is the third year Lyles son with Chris Haerter, another Sag Harbor resident, will be honored at the Soldier Ride The Hamptons event, with a tribute from 11:30 a.m. to noon at the base of the bridge named in his honor. Lyles, who will walk with Theinert’s mother and stepfather in the event, said becoming involved with Soldier Ride has given her the opportunity to celebrate her son, while being involved with an organization close to her heart.
Soldier Ride was founded in 2004, when East Hampton resident and Railroad Avenue Fitness owner Chris Carney teamed up with Stephen Talkhouse owner Peter Honerkamp and other locals to design an event to support Joe Melia’s Wounded Warrior Project.
Carney cycled cross-country, raising over a million dollars for the organization, setting off for a second cross-country cycling trip in 2005.
Since then Soldier Ride has evolved into a national program, hosting cycling and walking events aimed at not only raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project, but also at providing rehabilitative sporting equipment and training for troops wounded in overseas combat.
Last year, in honor of Haerter, the Amagansett-based event expanded into Sag Harbor. Last week, Lyles said she hopes eventually Soldier Ride will also include a leg through Shelter Island, the home of Theinert. Lyles said she plans to honor the fallen soldier in her address at the tribute to her son.
The event begins Saturday with registration at 8 a.m. at Long Wharf in Sag Harbor and at Oceanview Farm in Amagansett. Participants can choose from 30 or 60-mile bicycle routes beginning in Amagansett, or participate in one of two four-mile walk/run routes in Amagansett or Sag Harbor.
The 30 mile-route takes riders from Amagansett to Sag Harbor for the Haerter dedication and then back through Amagansett. Following the tribute to Haerter, at noon Carney will lead a group of wounded veterans down Main Street, Sag Harbor in an event dubbed “Honor Our Heroes.”
The 60-mile route extends the cycling tour from Amagansett to Montauk Point Lighthouse, and back to Amagansett for a celebratory barbeque at Oceanview Farm. Last year’s event raised $200,000 and Lyles admitted it may be hard to top. But she’s hopeful.
“And I hope we see a lot of red, white and blue out there,” she said.
To register for Solider Ride, visit soldierridethehamptons.com. The cost is $50 for cycling, $25 for the walk/run and $75 for cycling on the day of the event. For more information, call 903-1701.