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Nov 15, 2008 1:44 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Bridge dedicated to fallen local soldier

Nov 15, 2008 1:44 PM

Despite wind and rain, hundreds filled the streets around Long Wharf to take part in a ceremony Saturday to dedicate a monument and rename the North Haven-Sag Harbor Bridge in honor of fallen 19-year-old U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, a Pierson High School graduate who died in Iraq in April.

During the ceremony, which lasted from 10:30 a.m. until just before noon, U.S. Marines from Lance Cpl. Haerter’s regiment joined state, county and local officials—including U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, New York State Senator Ken LaValle, State Assemblymen Fred W. Thiele Jr., County Executive Steve Levy and Sag Harbor Village Mayor Greg Ferraris. They shared sentiments about Lance Cpl. Haerter and his heroism.

Grieving parents JoAnn Lyles and Christian Haerter unveiled the monument at the foot of the bridge: a red granite obelisk, the color of which was chosen to represent the Marine Corps and Pierson High School. Marines, veterans and officials later cut a ribbon and dedicated what will now be called the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Lance Cpl. Haerter was killed on April 22, early in his first tour of duty in Iraq, when a suicide bomber drove a truck through the checkpoint he was guarding outside the city of Ramahdi. Military officials said his actions, resulting in the early detonation of the bomb, saved the lives of more than 30 Marines, more than 50 Iraqi police and hundreds of Iraqi civilians.

Lance Cpl. Haerter was the first Sag Harbor soldier to die in combat since World War II.

Along with citizens, officials and veterans, 40 Marines from the young man’s regiment, 1st Battalion 9th Marines, also known as “The Walking Dead,” were on hand and in uniform to remember their fallen brother in arms.

“The long months in Ramahdi, Iraq were made immeasurably more meaningful by the actions of Jordan, JoAnn, Christian and Sag Harbor,” Lieutenant Corporal Brett Borne, the square-jawed commanding officer of Lance Cpl. Haerter’s regiment, said, recalling the outpouring of support following his comrade’s death. Lt. Col. Bourne said that support and heartfelt reaction had a “tremendous effect” on Marines who remained in harm’s way. He explained that remembrances, including pictures or Lance Cpl. Haerter and letters he wrote “were in every nook and cranny, in every bombed out building and rubbled place” in the war torn corners of Iraq where the soldiers slept.

“This is clearly a special place, a place that represents the best in America,” Lt. Col. Bourne said of Sag Harbor and the community that huddled under tents and out in the rain to remember their fallen son and help comfort the family that raised him.

“The outpouring from the community is unlike anything you usually see,” Lt. Dan Runzhimer, a Marine from Lance Cpl. Haerter’s regiment said later.

“I thank God for Jordan,” Ms. Lyles said, addressing the crowd. “Jordan would have loved to show you Sag Harbor,” she said to her son’s brothers in the Marines. Ms. Lyles said that had he been alive to do so, Lance Cpl. Haerter would have taken the Marines to his favorite places and had them join him in games of paint ball or in his truck, four wheeling on the dirt section of Division Street or on the beach.

“Breathe, take in this weekend in Jordan’s Sag Harbor,” Ms. Lyles added, urging them to enjoy what her son could not.

Mr. Haerter, who wore Lance Cpl. Haerter’s dog tags, said the ceremony on Saturday was a celebration of the community that molded his son and the many in attendance who influenced his life. “The face you see in the granite today, it may look like your own, but be assured that it’s the face of a hero, a hero named Lance Corporal Jordan Christian Haerter, the native son of Sag Harbor,” Mr. Haerter said.

As Reverend James Cardone of the Sag Harbor First Presbyterian Church said a blessing for the bridge, a Vietnam-era, restored Sikorsky UH34 Marine Corps helicopter came into view, the sound of its rotors turning heads and getting louder as the chopper approached. It hovered low above the crest of the bridge, where guests, including former Assemblyman John Behan of Montauk, who lost both legs in Vietnam; Marines and politicians, waited and then cut a red ribbon, officially rechristening the bridge in memory of Lance Cpl. Haerter and veterans past, present and future, living and dead.

The crowd parted after the ribbon cutting to make way for a color guard of Marines from Lance Cpl. Haerter’s regiment to march across the flag-lined bridge and return to end the ceremony.

“The sacrifice that Jordan made on April 22 is one that has been made countless times in our history and one seldom honored as such,” Lance Cpl. Haerter’s father said, not long before the formation of Marines stood together on the bridge. “Please make sure you help us celebrate their lives by giving them a genuine thank you for yours.”

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This was a great day for all of us I wish we knew that Jordan would be awarded the Navy Cross that would have made a great day even better.
By sergeant01 (3), EastHampton on Nov 22, 08 8:20 AM
I was proud to be part of this memorial honoring a truly great man. I know how much his fellow Marines love him. I was glad to hear that Jordan will be awarded the Navy Cross as I know they are as well.
By AllieJ123 (1), Lynbrook on Nov 24, 08 11:50 AM