Medal of Honor prospects dim for fallen LI Marine

A Marine Corps official says the military agency

A Marine Corps official says the military agency has fully evaluated the 2008 incident in which Sag Harbor native Jordan Haerter sacrificed his life to defend fellow troops in Iraq, dimming hopes that he could be granted the nation's highest military honor. Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

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A Marine Corps official says the military agency has fully evaluated the 2008 incident in which Sag Harbor native Jordan Haerter sacrificed his life to defend fellow troops in Iraq, dimming hopes that he could be granted the nation's highest military honor.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) introduced legislation on March 13 requesting a presidential review of whether Navy Cross medals posthumously granted to Haerter and another Marine, Cpl. Jonathan Yale, should be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

But the legislation is before the House Armed Services Committee, which seeks the advice of Defense Department leaders while considering passage.

"Because there is no new and relevant information that was not previously considered in these two cases, there is no basis for reconsideration" under federal law, said Marine spokeswoman Maj. Shawn Haney.

Haerter, a rifleman with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, has been credited with sacrificing himself to thwart a suicide attack -- sparing the lives of 50 Marines and scores of Iraqi police and civilians.

On April 22, 2008, Haerter, 19, and Yale, of Burkeville, Va., were guarding a checkpoint in Ramadi when a truck packed with 2,000 pounds of explosives tried to sweep past into a heavily populated area.

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A video of the confrontation showed the Marines firing their weapons, halting the advance as Iraqi forces fled. The truck exploded, killing Haerter and Yale.

Bishop filed the legislation at the request of Haerter's parents after a grassroots effort to gather enough signatures on a White House website to spark a presidential review missed a January deadline.

"There is some question as to whether the videotape was part of the review," Bishop said Thursday.

But Haney said the video had been reviewed by the Marines' commanding general in Iraq before the general recommended Haerter and Yale receive the Navy Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor among U.S. military honors.

Doug Sterner, curator of the Military Times Hall of Valor, a website compiling U.S. military award citations, said five to 10 bills seeking medal upgrades are introduced in Congress each year but few are approved.

The Pentagon, he said, has been more reluctant to grant the nation's highest military awards for combat in Iraq or Afghanistan than it has in past wars.

During a decade of combat in Iraq, only four individuals were awarded the Medal of Honor, records show. Nine have been awarded for combat in Afghanistan.

"There is a problem in the awards process from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that has resulted in heroes of the current wars being denied their proper due," Sterner said.

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Haerter's parents understand that the legislative initiative is a long shot.

"I don't want to be hopeful," said Haerter's mother, JoAnn Lyles. "But if the outcome is more and more people learning his story, I don't mind that at all."

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