The cost of heroism is immeasurable. That cost is so great precisely because the call for heroism is so rare. I’m not talking about your garden variety bravery here. Thankfully, most of us are not required to pay such a price, but on April 22, 2008, in Ramadi, Iraq, Corporal Jonathan Yale, 22, and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 20, were called upon to pay the immeasurable price of heroism. They gave their lives. And they did so without hesitation.
These two Marines met each other for the first time only that morning. They were from two different units. They were both infantry grunts, one from 1st Battalion 9th Marines (1/9), the other from 2nd Battalion 8th Marines (2/8). One battalion was closing out its deployment and the other was just starting. That day they were given orders to assume the watch at the entrance gate of an outpost that housed some 50 Marines. That same barracks housed 100 Iraqi police officers.
Though these two Marines were from very different backgrounds, they were both Marines. That morning they were ordered to relieve two others at the guard post at the entrance to the compound. It was only minutes later that a large blue truck came hurtling around the corner and started weaving through the defensive Jersey barriers that had been set up in the street. What happened next was indescribably horrific.
Yale and Haerter didn’t even have time to really get to know one another before the suicide bomber came barreling toward them that day. But they knew their orders and they were united in their brotherhood as Marines. They understood their mission and they did what had to be done.
They stood their ground together.
They opened fire on the driver and killed him, but at that moment the truck exploded with an unimaginable force. It had 2,000 lb., of explosives packed into it. When it blew, it destroyed everything around it. The buildings were turned to rubble and the engine block of the truck landed some 200 yards away, destroying another house when it landed. But because of Yale and Haerter’s actions that day, 50 of their brother Marines, and 100 of their Iraqi allies survived. That is heroism. That is how much it costs.
Marine Lt. General John Kelly, who had been the commander in Iraq at the time, read the situation report of the incident shortly after it happened and felt that there was something different about it that struck him. He asked the Marine regimental commander for details. There had been no American eyewitnesses, only Iraqis. But the Iraqis were clear and unanimous in their details and in their praise of what these two Marines did.
In a speech Kelly gave to a large audience in 2010, he said:
“Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes.”
That is exactly what Yale and Haerter did. They had stood their ground like Marines. They had done their duty. They had paid the ultimate price following through on the mission they had been given. Yale and Haerter have been awarded Navy Crosses for their heroism and sacrifice that day in Ramadi.
honors the memory of Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. We also offer our deepest condolences to their families. These two young Marines honored the values of the Corps and the meaning of the motto, “Semper Fidelis.”