QUANTICO, Va. --
On Oct. 23, 1983, a determined suicide bomber in a Mercedes-Benz dump truck loaded with more than 10,000 pounds of explosives sped through security checkpoints and posted sentries. The truck exploded in the lobby of the Marine headquarters of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon killing 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and 3 soldiers with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.
The sentries had time to respond, but because of the rules of engagement, they could not quickly react to the threat. By the time the sentries were set to fire, the truck was well on its way to its final destination.
Nearly 25 years later, the same scenario played out again but with a different ending.
On the warm, dusty morning of April 22, 2008, Lance Cpl. Jordan C. Haerter and Cpl. Jonathan T. Yale, both serving as riflemen with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, and 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, respectively, faced imminent danger just as the sentries two and a half decades earlier had done.
Yale and Haerter stood their ground and defended Joint Security Station Nasser in Ramadi, Iraq, as a Mercedes-Benz dump truck loaded with 2,000 pounds of explosives raced toward the security checkpoint where the two were standing guard.
Haerter, armed with an M-16A2 Rifle, and Yale, with a M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, sprayed the vehicle with bullets causing the suicide bomber to prematurely detonate the explosives only yards away from their location, but distant enough from the security station.
Haerter was killed instantly. Yale fought for his life, but later succumbed to his injures hours later.
Their heroic actions and courage saved the lives of over 50 Marines and Iraqi Policemen.
“If it weren’t for those two and doing what they had to do, I know for a fact that none of us who were at JSS Nasser that morning would be alive,” said Matt Carver, a 23-year-old from Waco, Texas, and formerly a section leader with Haerter’s platoon.
For their actions, Haerter and Yale were awarded posthumously the Department of the Navy’s second highest award, the Navy Cross. Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter presented the awards to the families at a ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps here, Feb. 20. To date 27 Navy Crosses have been awarded in the Long War.
“Jonathan and Jordan were shining examples of the finest of America’s next generation,” Winter said. “When faced with danger they had no time to go to their chain of command and no time to assess the situation, they were forced to rely on their discipline and their training.”
Rebecca Yale, Jonathan’s mother, said she felt a level of comfort in knowing her son and Jordan saved the lives of others. For her, the ceremony provided some closure.
“The ceremony was very helpful,” said Rebecca Yale, the mother of Jonathan Yale. “I am so proud of my son. It is because of his sacrifice so many families did not have to endure the pain I endured. He loved his country and wanted to make a difference in someone’s life and I know he did just that.”
Lance Cpl. Nicholas Xiarhos, a 21-year-old from Yarmouth, Mass., and a squad leader with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, described the ceremony as a celebration of their life and ultimate sacrifice and not a somber occasion.
“This ceremony was a culmination of everything that’s happened and I’m very appreciative of what they did,” Xiarhos said. “The hardest thing to think about is knowing that many people will forget about all of this. I hope no one ever forgets that what they did was nothing less than heroism at it’s finest.”
Carver said neither Jonathan nor Jordan were the types to seek acknowledgement or praise. But he said he knows both of them would be pleased to receive the medal and to know that their sacrifice has not been forgotten.
“They would be proud, I can guarantee that,” Carver said. “Because of the kind of Marines they were I know they never once thought about abandoning their post—I know they didn’t.”
Winter concluded his remarks with a line from the Marine Corps’ hymn, “If the Army and the Navy ever looked on Heaven’s scenes they would find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.”
“I have all the confidence, that if Jordan and Jonathan are on duty today, they are standing as proudly as they were on that faithful Tuesday. Let us be inspired by the heroism of these two Marines and by the many sacrifices made by service members at home and abroad in the Long War.