Tag Archive | "Wounded Warrior"

Riding to Benefit Wounded Warriors

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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.”

JoAnn Lyles

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web convo Lyles

The mother of the late Marine Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter and member of the organizing committee for “Solider Ride The Hamptons” talks about next weekend’s Solider Ride event, staying in touch with her son’s battalion and how she remembers her son, who was killed in combat two-and-a-half-years ago at the age of 19 defending a checkpoint in Ramadi, Iraq.

The last three years “Solider Ride The Hamptons” has dedicated its summer cycling and walk/run event to your late son Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter. What drew you to become an active member of the organization?

The first invited me after Jordan was killed. That first year was very hard. Jordan’s birthday is July 30 so it was a lot to take in, but it has grown into a very good thing for me to celebrate. It is a great organization and when Jordan died it was one of those things I could do to keep busy, to stay involved. It is something that helps me get through and the organization does so very much for the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, which is important to me.

For the second year, the Soldier Ride event will include a tribute to your son in your hometown of Sag Harbor. Will the event differ much this year from last year’s event?

This year, like last year, there will be a tribute to Jordan at the base of the bridge [named the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge in honor of the fallen Marine], but we will also remember Army First Lieutenant Joseph Theinert [who was killed in Afghanistan on June 4 at the age of 24], whose family is from Sag Harbor and Shelter Island so it will be even more poignant. We did talk about having the ride through Shelter Island and over the ferry, but it didn’t work out for this year. One year, we may make that jump though.

Will you ride in next weekend’s event?

I will be a walker. Some day, I think I will jump on a bike. I think a lot of people are realizing the 30-mile bike route is very doable.

Chris Kestler [Theinert’s mother] and her husband will walk with me and I think that is nice. It is nice our families can come to this event and give support to each other.

Soldier Ride has evolved into an organization that not only provides financial support for the Wounded Warrior organization, but is also a rehabilitative event nationwide for wounded soldiers returning from combat overseas. Have you had a chance to meet some of the riders?

I have. We have a VIP breakfast for the Wounded Warrior organization and we get to sit down and talk with a lot of the servicemen and women then. I think though, it is the most beneficial for the people who actually ride in the event. They get to ride side-by-side and see all the nice things that people do, standing on the side of the road with signs supporting the troops. I think that experience really captures the event.

As an organizer, have you found a lot of support from village residents for the Solider Ride cause?

We are trying to involve Sag Harbor more. “In Jordan’s Honor,” the memorial fund I have established in his name will have an award this year for the “Most Patriotic Display” and a “Shows the Most Spirit” award in Sag Harbor and we really want to get the word out on that. What we are hoping is that people on the route will decorate their houses, wear red, white and blue, make sure their flags are up, make thank you signs for the wounded warriors and line Main Street, Sag Harbor and the bridge. The winners will be announced in The Sag Harbor Express. We really hope the business community gets involved, hands out flags, and gets people on the streets. We are also going to put notices on Long Beach so the beachgoers will come up the street and cheer on the riders at the right time.

What are some of the other things you are hoping In Jordan’s Honor will be able to accomplish in the near term?

We are trying to establish a Purple Heart Trail locally. It’s a national organization that marks certain highways and parklands to recognize veterans. We are working with Tom Ronayne, director of the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency. Next week we are hoping to take a tour of different areas and will start out in the Sag Harbor area.

Last year, members of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines – Jordan’s division – were able to attend Soldier Ride in honor of your son. Will any members of the battalion be at this year’s event?

Not many, I think first because they are still deployed and will not be back until early August. A few of them did not deploy and one of them who lost his hearing in the blast that killed Jordan will be here with his wife.

Do you keep in touch with members of Jordan’s battalion?

Yes. Facebook helps. We are able to chat. This deployment helps because they are on a ship and have more access to computers. I definitely keep in touch with all of them. It helps.

Will Solider Ride include the Honor Our Heroes ride down Main Street, Sag Harbor again?

Yes. After the tribute to Jordan, Chris [Carney, one of the founders of Soldier Ride] will lead a pack of wounded warrior riders down Main Street at noon. That is really when we want the business owners to try and win our contest and pass out flags, get people on the streets. Last year, the walk was in Sag Harbor at noon, but it was too hot, so we will start the walk at 9 a.m. and at noon walkers from Amagansett and Sag Harbor can come together on Long Wharf for the tribute to Jordan.

As a mother, I imagine Jordan is always with you. How do you celebrate him daily? Are there little moments you still keep for the two of you?

I go past his grave every day on the way to work and it feels good there. We have a bench and some chimes and it is a nice place to sit where I can tell him what is happening. It is really important to me to keep up with his friends, and his fellow Marines.

I was chatting with one of the Marines, and they can’t always tell you where they are for security purposes. And he said, ‘I’ll give you a hint.’ They all call him Haerter and he said, ‘it’s Haerter’s first name.’ I said, I think I know where that is.

Soldier Ride The Hamptons will host early registration Saturday and Sunday at Windmill Beach in Sag Harbor from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on The Green in Amagansett from noon to 6 p.m. Registration is also available at www.soldierridethehamptons.com. The event will be held on Saturday, July 24 starting at 8 a.m. with a light breakfast at Oceanview Farm in Amagansett and Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. Participants can choose between a 30 or 60 mile bike route or one of two four mile walk/runs. The tribute to Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter will begin at 11:30 a.m. at Long Wharf in Sag Harbor.

The cost is $50 for the bike ride; $25 for riders under 21; $75 the day of the event and $25 for the walk/run. For more information and for routes, visit www.soldierridethehamptons.com or call 903-1701.

Chris Carney

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The East Hampton native talks about Soldier Ride, the rehabilitative event and fundraiser this Saturday, July 25, which will benefit the The Wounded Warrior Project and honor Sag Harbor’s own Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter.


This year’s local Solider Ride event features two bike routes – one 28-miles and another 65 miles – as well as two four mile walks, one in Amagansett and one in Sag Harbor. How has the response been so far?

It’s bigger than ever. We have more riders, more soldiers, the fact that we have 20 soldiers coming up from Walter Reed as well as 20 active-duty marines from Jordan’s unit, it’s pretty amazing. We will also have six Israeli soldiers riding with us.


Last year’s event was also in honor of Lance Corporal Haerter, but this year, going through Sag Harbor, does it feel any different?

Totally. We went to his memorial in Sag Harbor when they dedicated the monument and the bridge in his name and the fact that we are riding over the bridge and all his buddies are coming up is incredible. I feel like we can’t do anything for those that have fallen, like Jordan who died saving these guys, but if we can do everything we can to take care of these guys who do come back hurt, it is the best way we can memorialize them.

The fact is there are a lot of guys we can’t help. There were four killed in Afghanistan yesterday – it’s the bloodiest month in Afghanistan since the wars over there started. People get kind of used to hearing the numbers come in, but a lot of guys are still coming back and need our help. The need for the resources to take care of these guys is still very real.


Four years ago you started Solider Ride with a cross-country trip to benefit The Wounded Warrior Project, an organization dedicated to providing resources and support for wounded soldiers returning from overseas combat. As organizers, why was the decision made to host regional events rather than the cross-country cycling tours?

Well we found that it was a lot to ask a couple guys to go all the way cross country and we developed the kind of ties to a number of communities where it was no longer necessary to have someone ride through the middle of the desert for this cause. As it evolved from a fundraiser to a rehabilitative event, we wanted to start choosing places these wounded soldiers riding with us actually wanted to go. So we have seven or eight regional rides a year – Miami to Key West, the New York ride which finishes out here in Montauk, they do a Las Vegas ride and the high desert, they do a ride in Nashville, the coast of California, in Texas. In each year we come back to these communities they come out stronger and stronger for these soldiers. So the fact that we started this here in East Hampton and Montauk, it’s nice to see this has led the way on a national level.


Correct me if I am wrong, but did this not all start four years ago with a group of guys sitting at the bar of The Stephen Talkhouse talking about what they could do to help wounded soldiers?

It did. [Stephen Talkhouse owner] Peter [Honerkamp] through one of his many fundraisers for [retired Master Gunnery Sergeant] John Hernandez of Long Island, raised a lot of money, but also had a lot of expenses, so we were trying to think of a way to raise a lot of money without a lot of overhead. At first biking cross-country seemed like a farfetched idea that would be dismissed, but it wasn’t.


Do you go to these events held around the country?

I try and go to one or two every year. It keeps me involved and up to date. It has gotten hard. I wish I could go to more, but I get caught up in work and life and everything else, but I get copied on e-mails and people send me pictures so I stay in touch with a lot of these guys. There is a whole other group of guys now. All the guys I knew when I was really active in it, that I went to see and rode with, they have all moved on. Every time I go I see new faces, which is bittersweet because you know you are touching more people, but at the same time that means there are more people getting hurt.


While Soldier Ride has obviously had an impact on a number of lives, how has it changed yours?

I try not to sweat the small stuff. I feel humbled in that way. I get caught up in my daily life like everyone else, but then I get copied on an e-mail and it reminds me of what is important.


Are you going to complete the full 65-mile ride on Saturday?

I am going to try. It has been awhile.


Where did the idea come from to do the ride down Main Street, Sag Harbor with wounded soldiers and Jordan’s company?

Out here in the land of celebrities and all of that, I feel like these guys are the ultimate celebrities, especially considering what they have sacrificed – a lot of these guys are coming back having lost limbs, burned and their lives forever altered for our sake. It is a chance for us to show them our community loves them.


Jordan’s mother has enjoyed her involvement with Soldier Ride. How has it been having her on board?

We are happy and honored to have her a part of the team and if she continues to lead us the way she has the future for Soldier Ride here in East Hampton looks very bright.


Solider Ride will be held this Saturday, July 25. Registration for cyclists is $50 or $25 for those 21 years old and under. Registration for walkers costs $25. Participants can register from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the American Legion in Amagansett or from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. The opening ceremonies will be held at the Amagansett American Legion at 9:45 a.m. For more information, visit empirestatechallenge.org

Soldiers Ride For Jordan

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For Chris Carney, the personal trainer who made the inaugural Soldier Ride trek cross country in 2004, dedicating this year’s Empire State Challenge to Sag Harbor resident Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter is the least the organization can do to honor his memory.

“Jordan and many of his fellow Marines have paid the ultimate price, and at the very least I feel the greatest thing we can do to honor him is take care of the soldiers we take care of every year through this organization,” said Carney on Tuesday. “We are in Jordan’s backyard — it’s the natural thing to do, but still, I do feel we just can’t do enough.”

On Saturday, July 26 the Wounded Warrior Project’s Solider Ride Empire State Challenge, Manhattan to Montauk will culminate with a local cycling and walking event from Amagansett to Montauk in memory of Lance Cpl. Haerter. Haerter, a 2006 Pierson High School graduate, was killed outside the city of Ramadhi in Iraq in April. The 19-year-old U.S. Marine had just reached the one-month mark of his first tour when a suicide bomber drove into the checkpoint he was guarding and detonated. His actions and sacrifice, said military officials, saved over 30 lives that day.

The trek will begin at the American Legion in Amagansett and end at the Montauk Point Lighthouse, where Carney began and ended his cross-country journeys, which raised millions for the Wounded Warrior organization.

Wounded Warrior is a non-profit organization founded by Joe Melia to provide support for U.S. servicemen and women — whether it be their signature backpacks filled with toiletries, amenities and clothing for wounded soldiers returning to United States, outreach, career counseling, advocacy, family and coping services.

In 2004 Carney completed his first cross-country cycle to support the organization under the newly created banner of Soldier Ride. Stephen Talkhouse owner Peter Honerkamp helped coordinate the event and continues to do so through The Talkhouse offices.

In 2005, Soldier Ride evolved, and Staff Sergeants Heath Calhoun, and Ryan Kelley and other combat wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan joined Carney for the grueling trek, beginning Soldier Ride’s commitment to providing rehabilitative sporting events for wounded men and women returning from combat overseas.

“One of the great things is, first of all, it takes soldiers out of the hospital who’ve just suffered traumatic injuries,” said Honerkamp. “It empowers them and also sets an example for the incoming wounded.”

Soldier Ride has continued to evolve to focus on smaller regional rides in an effort to allow more participants.  The Empire State Challenge is the first event the general public will be able to join in, whether they opt to take on the 62-mile trek, a 35-mile challenge or a four-mile walk.

“The studs will go the 65, other people the 35 and then there’s a walk as well,” said Honerkamp.

In addition to a number of servicemen and women, as well as regional race participants, five Israeli soldiers from the second Lebanon war will be riding. It is the second year Israeli soldiers have joined in a Soldier Ride event after the organization was contacted through Friends of the Israeli Defense Fund.

Haerter’s parents, JoAnn Lyles and Chris Haerter will both walk in the event under a Team Jordan banner, which as of press time had raised over $7,500, almost a fifth of the $50,000 the event hopes to generate. Total donations had topped $27,000 by Wednesday afternoon.

Lyles expects some of Jordan’s Pierson High School classmate to join her at the event, as well as Corporal Christopher Scherer’s family. Corporal Scherer was an East Northport resident who was killed by a sniper bullet in 2007. The Scherer family came to Lance Corporal Haerter’s wake, remembered Lyles.

“It’s a sad club to belong to, but we’re Gold Star parents,” she said. “You get in touch that way … They know what we’re going through.”

Event registration for the Soldier Ride Empire State Challenge will be held from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the American Legion Post on Route 27 in Amagansett, with opening ceremonies and the race beginning at 10 a.m. The cost is $50 for adults, $25 for children 15 and under. For more information, call 267-3142.

Written by Kathryn G. Menu with additional reporting by John Bayles.