It was a typical quiet morning on April 22, with the temperature intensifying as a bright orange sun emerged high on the horizon. Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, and Corporal Jonathan T. Yale, a rifleman with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, RCT-1, were standing post, just as they had done numerous times before.
They were conducting a standard length watch in a small checkpoint protected by concrete barriers where they overlooked the small gravel road lined with palm trees, leading to their entry control point.
However, this morning would be different. Quickly it would turn chaotic, then tragic. Two Marines would gallantly sacrifice their lives so others could live.
A truck packed with thousands of pounds of explosives entered the area where Lance Cpl. Haerter and Cpl. Yale were standing guard. Realizing the vehicle’s intentions, Lance Cpl. Haerter and Cpl. Yale, without hesitation, stood their ground, drew their weapons and fired at the vehicle. The truck rolled to a stop and exploded, killing the two Marines.
“I was on post the morning of the attack,” said Lance Corporal Benjamin Tupaj, a rifleman with 3rd Platoon, Police Transition Team 3, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines. “I heard the [squad automatic weapon] go off at a cyclic rate and then the detonation, along with a flash. Then I heard a Marine start yelling, ‘We got hit! We got hit!’ It was hectic.”
In the face of a committed enemy, Lance Cpl. Haerter and Cpl. Yale stood their ground, saving the lives of numerous Marines, sailors, Iraqi policemen, and civilians. Both Marines displayed heroic, self-sacrificing actions and truly lived up to the Corps values of honor, courage, and commitment.
“They saved all of our lives—if it wasn’t for them, that gate probably wouldn’t have held,” Lance Cpl. Tupaj said. “The explosion blew out all of the windows over 150 meters from where the blast hit. If that truck had made it into the compound, there would’ve been a lot more casualties. They saved everyone’s lives here.”
According to official reports, the heroic actions of Lance Cpl. Haerter and Cpl. Yale saved the lives of the 33 Marines and 21 Iraqi police, as well as numerous civilians at the entry control point. “They are heroes because thousands of pounds [of explosives] would’ve made its way through the gate, and many more of us wouldn’t be here,” said Lance Corporal Lawrence Tillery, a rifleman with 3rd Platoon. “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. Because of Lance Cpl. Haerter and Cpl. Yale, I will be able to see my son again. They gave me that opportunity.”
A week after the attack, the Marines with 3rd Platoon remembered their fallen brethren as good friends and Marines. “Cpl. Yale was a great guy, really friendly and kind of shy,” said Hospitalman Eric Schwartz, a corpsman with the platoon. “Haerter was an amazing guy—I knew everything about him. He was my best friend,” said Lance Corporal Cody Israel, a rifleman with 3rd Platoon, and Lance Cpl. Haerter’s roommate for more than a year and half.
Lance Cpl. Haerter and Cpl. Yale were both posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal and Combat Action Ribbon, and have been nominated for an award for their valor.