Nearly 400 runners and walkers gathered at Pierson High School on Sunday morning for the second annual Jordan’s Run Veterans’ Memorial 5K Run/Walk, joining military veterans, public officials, Sag Harbor teaches and students and others who knew and loved Jordan Haerter, the Sag Harbor native and United States Marine who died heroically while serving in Iraq in 2008.
Jordan’s Run is the fourth in a series of seven events in the Suffolk County Veterans Run Series, which brings communities together to honor soldiers who lost their lives and the veterans who returned home from war. Several Marines from Haerter’s battalion were in attendance on Sunday, as were many others with a history of military service.
“It’s good to see that life goes on,” said JoAnn Lyles, Haerter’s mother whose organization, In Jordan’s Honor, organized Sunday’s event.
“It’s clear as we gather here today with inspiration in our hearts that Jordan continues to serve,” U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin said before the race began. “Tomorrow would have been his 30th birthday and what better way to be celebrating the life of Jordan, and the fact that tomorrow would have been his birthday, than for all of us to gather here in Sag Harbor to pay tribute to him.”
On April 22, 2008, Haerter was killed in action at 19 years of age while serving in the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, in Ramadi, Iraq. He and another Marine, Corporal Jonathan T. Yale, were standing guard at an entry point to their camp when a truck carrying explosives careened toward them out of control. Haerter and Yale opened fire and an ensuing explosion claimed their lives but saved the lives of countless others.
“In Jordan’s case, he did sacrifice everything, and he is a hero in every sense of the word,” Congressman Zeldin added. “Because of his sacrifice, others were able to live.”
“Our country is what it is today because, thank God, we produced individuals like Jordan,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said while standing next to Lyles, whose son, he said, “is without a question an American Hero, somebody who represents the best of our nation, somebody who as a United States Marine stood his ground with incredible valor and bravery and courage and selflessness and saved so many lives.”
Zoe Quinn, a 42 year-old from Dublin, Ireland, was the overall winner of the race is 19 minutes and 16 seconds, a 6:12 mile pace, which is a rare occurrence for a woman to win such a well-attended event. Paige Duca, a 20 year-old lifeguard in East Hampton who runs track at Boston College, likely would have won the race if not for a wrong turn on the course that dropped her back into 18thplace overall.
Ben Mac, a 15 year-old rising sophomore at Pierson High School and an up-and-coming cross country star, was the first male and second overall finisher with a time of 19:41.6. Tara Farrell, 39, of East Quogue was third overall in 19:52.9.
Complete results are available online at jordansrun.itsyourrace.com.
“I woke up this morning, I was pretty tired, but then my adrenaline kicked in,” said Mac, whose older brother, Nick, was a good friend of Haerter’s. “I got in a zone and just kept pushing myself more and more. I saw the two-mile mark at Redwood and pushed myself all the way through with a consistent pace.”
The course, as described by Tom Gillin, who volunteers to announce all the Suffolk County Veterans Races, started at Pierson High School, where Haerter went to school, went “out past the marina where Jordan worked, across the bridge that is named in Jordan’s honor, not once but twice,” and finally past the Oakland Cemetery, where Haerter is buried. “But we will be back here at the high school, completing the circle that was Jordan’s life as part of the great Sag Harbor community,” Gillin added.
Near the finish line, as the atmosphere turned from somber to festive, Jim Kinnier, a longtime Pierson teacher who had Haerter in class, spoke about some of the lessons he imparts onto his students as they grow older.
“It’s very important that we remind people that freedom is not for free,” said Kinnier, whose classroom is adorned with an American flag that was on Main Street the day Haerter’s body was returned home. “At the end of the school year I met with seniors, not as a teacher but as a citizen. We were encouraging them to not only register to vote, but also to set up absentee ballot voting. Men and women have given their lives so that we can live free, and more than anything, Jordan was one of ours. When I have a first period class I tell the students that Jordan was somebody who served, which is enough, but the way that he conducted himself in the way he was killed was really amazing. It was a high level of excellence that very few people have obtained.
“And of course it cost him his life,” he added. “It’s important for us to remember that this freedom we have has cost people their lives.”