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IRAQ: Slain Marines awarded Navy Cross

November 20, 2008 |  1:40 pm

Navycross Two young Marines will be posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for stopping a terrorist attack on a Marine and Iraqi police outpost in Ramadi and saving dozens of lives, the Marine Corps announced today.

Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, 19, of Sag Harbor, N.Y., and Cpl. Jonathan Yale, 21, of Burkeville, Va., were standing guard on April 22 when a truck filled with 2,000 pounds of explosives barreled toward the outpost's main gate.

Haerter and Yale, following Marine training, fired at the truck. As the truck rolled to a stop, it exploded, killing the pair, demolishing a nearby mosque and house, and leaving a crater 20 feet in diameter and 5  feet deep.

Security film showed that the two Marines never flinched as they continued to fire at the truck, according to an investigation by the Marine Corps. "Both Marines were killed still firing their weapons," said Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the top Marine in Iraq.

Three Marines, eight Iraqi officers and 24 civilians -- all more than 100 yards from the blast -- were injured.  An additional 50 Marines and dozens of Iraqi police officers, in a barracks farther from the gate, were unhurt. 

"I have a son back home, and I know if that truck would've made it to where it was going -- I wouldn't be here today," Lance Cpl. Lawrence Tillery said after the attack. "Because of Lance Cpl. Haerter and Cpl. Yale, I will be able to see my son again. They gave me that opportunity."

Haerterx Haerter was with the 1st Battalion, 9th Regiment; Yale with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment. Both were attached to Regimental Combat Team One from Camp Pendleton. Yale’s family said he was within weeks of coming home.

Yale The Navy Cross is the nation's second highest award for bravery by Marines or sailors in combat. While there have been other Navy Cross awards during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the bravery of Haerter and Yale was unusual because it was captured on film and seen by numerous witnesses.

"For their dedication, they lost their lives," Kelly said at the Marine base in Al Asad. "Only two families had their hearts broken on April 22 rather than as many as 50. These families will never know how truly close they came to a knock on the door that night."

-- Tony Perry in Al Asad, Iraq

Photo (top): The Navy Cross. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Photos: (bottom): Jordan Haerter, left, and Jonathan Yale were awarded the medal posthumously. Credit: Marine Corps