Early Saturday morning, members of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, a reserve infantry battalion that suffered one of the highest casualty rates of the Iraq war, will take off running from the Montauk Lighthouse.
Twenty-six hours later, they expect to arrive at Ground Zero in Manhattan.
In relay fashion, two at a time, with each leg covering about 5 miles, the 35 members will go the distance as tribute to their fallen comrades and honor the sacrifices of the U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter of Sag Harbor and U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Joseph Theinert of Shelter Island. They will also honor the first responders lost on 9/11.
The “Memorial 100” in years past has been run from Orient Point to Ground Zero, but this is the first time it will cover the South Fork, according to Christian Haerter, Lance Cpl. Haerter’s father. (Although the event’s name includes the number 100, the actual mileage is more than 130 miles.)
Jordan’s Initiative, a nonprofit in honor of Lance Cpl. Haerter, and Hope For The Warriors, another nonprofit that supports wounded U.S. service members, their families and families of the fallen, will host the battalion members at the Barons Cove Inn in Sag Harbor.
A “meet and greet” for the battalion, which is open to the public, will be held at the American Legion on Bay Street in Sag Harbor, from 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday, May 24.
The next morning, at about 6:15 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, a small ceremony will kick off the run, and Sag Harbor resident Calista “Cali” Cafiero, who turned 14 on Tuesday, will sing the National Anthem.
The battalion runners, flanked by police cars and support vans, will proceed for the most part along Montauk Highway. In Sag Harbor, they will cross the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge, which will be lined with 48 military veterans—ranging from World War II to current combat and all branches of service—holding American flags. The 48 flags represent the 48 lost souls of the 3/25 Battalion. In addition to the symbolic 48, Mr. Haerter and Lt. Theinert’s father, Jim Theinert, will hold flags, as well.
Afterward, the Stars and Stripes will be donated to the American Legion, which maintains flags for the village, and will be displayed on Main Street in Sag Harbor.
The battalion will turn around and recross the bridge before heading up Main Street and continuing west. Another ceremony will take place at Ground Zero on Sunday, though details were not yet finalized.
“I just hope the public remembers that Memorial Day is to remember all of those people who died in providing us with our freedoms,” Mr. Haerter said. “I know it’s a nice day to have a barbecue and go to the beach and be with family, but if people can just take even five minutes out of their day to recognize the sacrifices of those who have died for them …” he continued before trailing off.
Mr. Haerter later added that the public is encouraged to show their support of the battalion members.
“I know it means a lot to them, and it gives them some added energy in completing the run,” he said.