By Kathryn G. Menu
Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter and Marine Corporal Jonathan Yale are credited with saving the lives of over a hundred Marines and Iraqi soldiers in a 2008 attack that claimed the lives of both young men.
Five years later, over 1,600 people have signed a petition urging the White House to award both men the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor in the country, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.
On April 22, 2008, Lance Cpl. Haerter — a native of Sag Harbor — and Cpl. Yale took their guard post at the Joint Security Station Nasser in Ramadi, Iraq. Lance Cpl. Haerter was a rifleman with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines and at the age of 19 had just arrived in Iraq for a seven-month tour of duty two days before. Cpl. Yale, 21, from Virginia, was a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines and was reportedly showing Haerter the ropes.
Shortly after taking their post, a blue truck loaded with 2,000 pounds of explosives began speeding through the concrete barriers towards the two Marines, who immediately responded by shooting at the vehicle, which was manned by a suicide bomber. The truck stopped short and detonated, killing both men, but their actions are credited with saving the lives of 150 Marines and Iraqi police officers.
It is for their act of valor the petition was started on December 6 by an Alexandria, Virginia resident — the identity of whom remains a mystery to even Haerter’s own parents, Christian Haerter and JoAnn Lyles.
“I actually found out about it Thursday,” said Haerter this week. At that point, the petition had just 600 signatures, but since both Haerter and Lyles began promoting the post — along with others who knew Lance Cpl. Haerter or Cpl. Yale — that number has grown rapidly. The petition aims to collect 100,000 signatures by January 5, 2014.
Lance Cpl. Haerter was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross Medal, the second highest military decoration for valor that can be awarded to a member of the United States Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard. He also earned a Purple Heart medal, Combat Action ribbon, Iraqi Campaign medal, Iraqi Service medal, Good Conduct medal, National Defense medal and Sea Service Deployment ribbon.
On Friday, Haerter said that while he was unaware who was pushing for his son and Cpl. Yale to receive the Medal of Honor, he has begun supporting the idea by asking others to sign the petition. That being said, Haerter added it would likely be through another avenue, for example the support of a member of Congress or military official that would initiate a formal review.
“As far as I am concerned there is no medal that is going to bring Jordan back,” said Haerter. “If he was awarded the Medal of Honor, for me that just extends his legacy because obviously a person who is the recipient of a Medal of Honor is talked about for years to come as it is such a rare honor. Anything I can do to keep him in people’s minds is a positive, but for me, I think they should all get a medal like this.”
There have been just 3,468 Medals of Honor awarded to servicemen and women since it was first created in 1861.
Lyles, who has been spreading the word about the petition through Facebook, first heard about it through social media, while checking in with Cpl. Yale’s mother, Rebecca.
“She doesn’t know who started it either,” said Lyles on Friday.
Lyles said she also reached out to Susan Keophila, who was serving in Ramadi when Lance Cpl. Haerter and Cpl. Yale were killed in the suicide bomber blast. Keophila, now retired from the Army, has sent letters and documentation calling for the Marines to be awarded the Medal of Honor to her Congressman in Virginia since she returned from Iraq, said Lyles. While Keophila also said she was not responsible for starting the petition, Lyles said she is grateful for whoever did.
“Maybe it just ensures he is remembered longer,” she said. “It would make sure his name is known much longer than our lives.”
On Friday, Congressman Tim Bishop said rarely is a review ordered through the aid of a member of Congress, but that it can be done. It is not a binding request nor is there legislation attached to it, he added.
“I have not been asked to do so by Cpl. Yale’s family or Jordan’s family, but if I am I certainly would,” said Bishop.