By David McCabe
This weekend, hundreds will once again ride their bicycles between Sag Harbor, Amagansett and Montauk to raise money for the veterans’ organization Wounded Warrior during the annual Soldier Ride The Hamptons event.
The event is being held in honor of Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter, as it has been since 2008, when the Sag Harbor native was killed while deployed in Iraq.
Participants can ride a 30 mile route or a 60 mile route. There are also two 5k walks — one that starts and ends in Sag Harbor, and another that will be held in Amagansett. The bike ride begins at 9 a.m. in Amagansett, at Ocean View Farm, and goes west to Sag Harbor before returning to the starting point. Those who are biking the longer route also start their ride in Amagansett, but continue on to Montauk Lighthouse before riding back to Ocean View Farms.
At 10:30 a.m., there will be a tribute to Haerter in Sag Harbor’s Marine Park, and at 11 a.m., the so-called Lap of Heroes will take place, where veterans ride down the village’s Main Street. As riders cross the Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge to North Haven, bagpipe players will salute the bicyclists while a vintage Navy helicopter will lower a wreath onto the bridge. Among those riding will be Marines who served with Haerter.
Haerter’s mother, JoAnn Lyles, said that those Marines have been a source of support since her son’s death.
“They constantly keep in touch with me. Marines are a true brotherhood and they show it that way,” she said. “I get Mother’s Day cards and things like that.”
Participants can register for the ride online up until 5 p.m. on Friday or they can sign up to ride on the day of the event in Amagansett starting at 7 a.m. For people ages 21 and older, the ride costs $50, and the 5k walks cost $25. The Sag Harbor walk begins in Marine Park.
All net proceeds benefit Wounded Warrior, which provides services to returning veterans that help them transition back to civilian life. When the organization was founded, it would distribute backpacks containing essential items like clothing and books to returning injured service members who had been shipped back from military medical centers without their possessions.
Soldier Ride began as a one man affair, when East Hampton bartender Chris Carney decided he wanted to do something to help returning veterans. He biked across the country in 2004, raising funds for Wounded Warrior.
The next year, he was joined for parts of his ride by other supporters and veterans. Wounded Warrior eventually officially incorporated Soldier Ride into their programming and the cross-country rides for smaller, community events.
Soldier Ride the Hamptons is not the only such event on the East End: Soldier Ride North Fork is held in honor of Lt. Joseph Theinert, a Shelter Island native who was killed in action in June, 2010.
For Wounded Warrior, Soldier Ride the Hamptons represents a chance to raise awareness of their programs and funds for their services.
For Lyles, the ride represents a chance for the community to remember her son, four years after his death.
“Just that it gets Jordan’s name mentioned again, that’s the part that’s nice for me. His story is told and it’s repeated and people might go home with that story and tell somebody else so that’s what I like about it,” she said.
Lyles said that Soldier Ride also acts as a rehabilitative event, because wounded veterans participate — providing them with a much-needed confidence boost.
“Bringing the wounded warriors up from Walter Reed lets them know that they can accomplish something,” she said. “It gets them on the road to recovery.”