When Lance Cpl. Jordan C. Haerter was killed in action in Iraq, he and fellow Marine Cpl. Jonathan Yale were guarding the entrance to a joint security station in Ramadi, in Anbar province. The pair, along with a handful of Iraqi police officers, were all that stood between a suicide truck bomber and barracks housing 150 soldiers.
It was April 22, 2008.
Yale, of Burkeville, Virginia, was 21. Haerter, a 2006 Pierson High School graduate who was born in Southampton and grew up in Sag Harbor, was 19.
The two Marines later became the focus of a speech by Gen. John F. Kelly titled "Six Seconds to Live."
What to know
The ceremonies will feature veterans, their families, officials and vintage military armor, among them and tanks, as part of the tribute.
- When: 11:30 a.m. Saturday
- Where: The Museum of American Armor at Old Bethpage Village Restoration
- More information on the event can be found at www.museumofamericanarmor.org
In it, Kelly recounted the six seconds that passed from the time the suicide bomber turned the corner toward the checkpoint and the time the Iraqi police fled to safety while Haerter and Yale stood and fired. The two successfully stopped the 2,000-pound truck bomb from entering the camp, but it detonated outside the camp killing the two Marines, but saving the lives of everyone else. Haerter became the first from Sag Harbor to die in combat since World War II. The North Haven-Sag Harbor Bridge was later renamed in his honor.
On Saturday, Haerter's mother, JoAnn Lyles, will be among the speakers at ceremonies to commemorate participants in the War on Terror at The Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage.
A museum spokesman said the event, which will include a parade of armored vehicles, is believed to be the nation's first community tribute of its kind to those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"So many people focus on saying he's a hero. But I think he was just a regular guy, doing his job, a job I believe anyone in his situation would have done," Lyles said. "I think what I want is more support for those [soldiers] who've come back, that we keep talking, that we don't isolate them."
The incident that killed Haerter and Yale, as well as the ensuing speech by Kelly, became the subject of a 2019 short film called "The 11th Order."
The title is reference to the 11th Marine Corps general order, which for those on watch is "to allow no one to pass without proper authority."
Haerter deployed in March 2008 with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, known since Vietnam as "The Walking Dead."
In his speech, Kelly said he was so moved by the incident, he personally went to Ramadi to interview witnesses, leading to Haerter and Yale being awarded the Navy Cross.
Kelly, who was White House chief of staff under former President Donald Trump and whose son, 1st Lt. Robert Michael Kelly, 29, was killed in Afghanistan, said he watched surveillance video and recounted the time it took for the entire event to unfold.
"Six seconds," he said in the speech, which can be found on YouTube. "Not enough time to think about their country or their flag or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men . . . to do their duty for eternity."
Kelly recalled how the Iraqi police officers told him they'd all run, adding "any normal man" would have done the same. "No sane man would've stood there and done what they did," the officers said.
Following his death, Lyles found an essay her son had written as a senior at Pierson, written almost two years to the day before his death, envisioning a deployment.
In it the then-17-year-old considers his biggest battle will not be with the fact he will have to kill someone in combat, but the fear he might hesitate. In that essay, Haerter writes, "If you have ever seen any pictures of Iraq, there are no pink houses ANYWHERE" — and of his first envisioned combat action, where he is forced to kill an enemy soldier, writes: "I had done it, without questioning my judgment, as I was trained."