Gold Star Families Will Be Honored in ‘Salute to Service’

JoAnn Lyles, in the black and white dress, at the surprise event on Monday in Hauppauge with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, holding the photo in the center, other Gold Star parents, county officials and run directors. Photo courtesy of Steve Bellone's office

Sag Harbor resident JoAnn Lyles, the mother of U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter, who was killed in combat in 2008, was surprised by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone with an invitation to partake in one of this year’s “Salute to Service” NFL games.

Ms. Lyles traveled to Hauppauge on Monday because she was told there was an announcement about the Suffolk County Veterans Run Series, which she got involved in when starting Jordan’s Run in Sag Harbor two years ago in honor of her son.

She was joined by two other sets of Gold Star parents who are associated with the run series: Tim and Janet Scherer of Northport, parents of the late Corporal Christopher Scherer, and Dan and Maureen Murphy of Patchogue, parents of the late Lieutenant Michael Murphy. But they were not told what the announcement would be about.

“When I got there, I talked to others, and everybody had the same … like, I don’t know why we’re here,” Ms. Lyles said.

Then Mr. Bellone explained the reason for their attendance that afternoon.

“As part of the Salute to Service, these Gold Star families have been invited to participate as a way to highlight all of the incredible work that they do each and every day for our veterans and have been doing for years and continue to do so,” Mr. Bellone said at the event. “It really is awe-inspiring, and I’m so grateful for them for what they do.”

Ms. Lyles will be one of 150 Gold Star family members from the tri-state area to participate in the pregame salute for the Salute to Service game between the New York Jets and New York Giants on November 10 at MetLife Stadium, the home stadium for both teams. The families will hold a 300-foot-by-150-foot American flag on the field during a flyover and parachute jump.

“It is an honor,” Ms. Lyles said. “I have only seen that on television, so holding that flag will be very special, and it’s just very nice that our sons will be remembered.”

The Salute to Service campaign is a partnership between the National Football League and nationwide organizations to honor and support the military community through recognition and fundraising efforts as well as hosting annual football games. Dozens of games are held throughout the country in November to recognize military members, veterans and their families.

Families and friends have held annual runs on Long Island as part of the Suffolk County Veterans Run Series to honor Mr. Haerter, Mr. Scherer and Mr. Murphy, three young service members who were all killed in combat. The Jordan’s Run Veterans’ Memorial 5k Run/Walk will take place on July 28 in Sag Harbor, starting at Pierson High School.

Mr. Haerter was 19 years old when he was killed stopping a suicide bomber from attacking his barracks in Ramadi, Iraq. He was born in Southampton in 1988 and raised in Sag Harbor. He entered the U.S. Marine Corps directly after graduating from Pierson High School in 2006.

Mr. Haerter’s father, Christian, said he was not asked to participate in the football game, but Mr. Bellone’s office maintained that he is invited.