What began as a grassroots effort late last year seeking the Medal of Honor for a fallen Sag Harbor marine has now become a piece of congressional legislation.
Representative Tim Bishop introduced a bill on Thursday requesting review of whether Lance Cpl. Jordan C. Haerter and Cpl. Jonathan T. Yale of Virginia are eligible for the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The marines, serving as riflemen in Ramadi, Iraq, on April 22, 2008, were killed when a suicide bomber driving a truck with 2,000 pounds of explosives failed to stop at the entrance to Joint Security Station Nasser, and they opened fire. Their quick action stopped the driver, but the bomb detonated. Corporal Haerter was 19, Corporal Yale, 21.
They were credited with saving 50 marines and 100 civilians and Iraqi police. The following year, they were awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest military honor and the highest honor the Department of the Navy could bestow. They have also received the Purple Heart medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Iraqi Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
“I offered this bill so that Jordan and Jonathan receive every possible consideration for the highest reward to which they are entitled,” Mr. Bishop said on Sunday morning at a press conference at the Chelberg-Battle post of the American Legion in Sag Harbor Village. Mr. Bishop said that he has a duty to ensure the proper honors are given them.
Representative Robert Hurt, a Republican from Virginia, co-sponsored the bill with Mr. Bishop, a Democrat from Southampton.
If approved, the bill would begin a process that refers the request to the House Armed Services Committee, which would ask that the Pentagon conduct a review. If that review is favorable, it will be referred to President Obama.
Corporal Haerter’s parents, Chris Haerter and JoAnn Lyles, have long been hoping for a formal review to begin. Two recent online petitions — including one Patti Collins Sales of East Hampton and Joi Jackson Perle of Wainscott started that gained nearly 38,000 signatures — prompted calls to to federal offices.
“We’re not expecting a Medal of Honor to be issued simply because a bill has been started. We just want a fair review of their actions — that’s all,” Mr. Haerter told the large crowd that gathered at the American Legion on Sunday.
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., a Sag Harbor native, said the groundswell of support was no surprise. “So many people from Sag Harbor turned out this morning, and that’s because in Sag Harbor we all knew Jordan Haerter and in our hearts he’s already won the Congressional Medal of Honor,” he said. “Now we have to go out about just convincing the powers that be that’s the case, and I thank Tim for setting that process in motion.”
“Time goes by, but it’s important you know that we haven’t forgotten your son and what he did for our country and how proud we are that he’s a son of Sag Harbor,” Mr. Thiele said to Mr. Haerter and Ms. Lyles.
Among the local politicians, veterans, boy scouts, and community members, were some who traveled from western Long Island. Phil Como, a Sea Cliff resident and Vietnam veteran who was representing his American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, said he felt compelled to support the effort.
“I feel like there’s a moral imperative here. Two magnificent marines, in six seconds, made a decision that their lives had to be sacrificed to save 50 marines and Iraqi staff,” Mr. Como said. “We’re taking this moment to say, we’re not going to forget, we’re going to ask the question, and we’re allowed to ask the question to the Pentagon, more of less these words: Are you sure you did the right thing? Because we don’t’ think they did. We think this requires an upgrade and we’re not going to stop for a while.”