JoAnn Lyles, the mother of late Marine Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter of Sag Harbor, declined to participate in this year’s Soldier Ride following controversy over its veterans organization partner.
The annual event, which took place Saturday, raises funds for Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that offers support and services to retuning veterans, including prosthetics and counseling. Earlier this year, it was reported that the organization was misappropriating its charity funds by spending lavishly on conferences and parties, and several top executives were fired following an investigation into the allegations.
Ms. Lyles posted on Facebook last week that she would not be participating in the charity bike ride, which in years past was held in honor of her son, who was killed on active duty in Afghanistan in 2008. Ms. Lyles was one of the major participants in the rides and the ceremonies afterwards. She also runs her own charity in memory of her son called In Jordan’s Honor, LTD.
Ms. Lyles said she announced her decision to withdraw from Soldier Ride at the organization’s committee meeting this past January, but did not make her decision public until now. She cited national news reports about Soldier Ride’s beneficiary, Wounded Warrior Project, misappropriating donor money.
“I told the committee that I didn’t feel comfortable being a part of the organization after the CBS and New York Times reports came out,” Ms. Lyles said. “Tony Ganga [chair of the Soldier Ride committee] wished that I’d reconsider, but I just felt like I should step away.”
Ms. Lyles said she doesn’t want to “discount” Soldier Ride for the work they do for veterans, and was happy to watch the soldiers and participants ride their bikes through East Hampton during Saturday’s event.
Peter Honerkamp, one of the founders of Soldier Ride, said that he respects Ms. Lyles’s decision.
“JoAnn said back in January that she didn’t want to participate in the ride this year. We shook hands and that was the end of it,” Mr. Honerkamp said last week. “We feel that JoAnn got it wrong, but we do wish her all the best. We stand by our organization and the fact that the CBS and New York Times reports were lies. We want to focus on the big mission of helping our veterans.”