Wearing a white bucket hat and shorts, 89-year-old Korean War veteran Robert Goldfarb crossed the 5K finish line in Sag Harbor on Sunday while onlookers cheered and clapped in the steadily rising heat.
Along with 488 other participants, ages 5 to 89, Goldfarb honored Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter and Corporal Jonathan Yale at the Sag Harbor race celebrating veterans and fallen soldiers.
“It’s important that we remember,” Goldfarb said afterward. “There are men and women out there who have gone back four or five times. I wanted to, in my own small way, say thank you.”
Haerter, a native of Sag Harbor, and Yale sacrificed their lives to save 33 Marines and 21 Iraqi police in the war on April 22, 2008, by stopping a truck loaded with 2,0000 pounds of explosives.
Jordan’s Run, organized by Haerter’s mom, JoAnn Lyles, and her organization, In Jordan’s Honor, is the fifth in a series of nine veteran runs across Long Island. Starting and ending at Pierson High School, the course was chosen to pass by important places in Haerter’s life, including his school, the village, the bridge named in his honor and the cemetery where he’s buried. Outside the school, local businesses and organizations set up tents and a photo booth was placed in the parking lot for attendees to enjoy.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone was at Pierson on Sunday and also participated in the race.
Paige Duca, 21, an elite collegiate runner from Rockville Centre finished in first place with a time of 17:24.48. After taking a wrong turn at the same race last year, Duca said it was “good to finish the right way.” She said other runners, including second-place finisher Oscar Lorenzo, 30, who finished in 17:33.01, helped set her pace.
“It definitely felt hot out there,” she said. “The hills were kind of tough at the end, but running is a totally mental sport.”
Rising Pierson junior Ben McErlean, 16, finished third overall in 17:39.32, followed by George Gochuico (18:10.11) and Clinton Thompson (18:33.71).
Tara Farrell, 40, a seasoned runner from East Quogue, was the second female finisher behind Duca with a time of 19:43.28, while Penelope Greene, another strong Pierson runner, was third among females in 20:05.43.
Complete results are available online at elitefeats.com.
Representatives from Team Red, White & Blue, a nonprofit that helps veterans transition to civilian life, ran the third annual 5K wearing backpacks full of gear. Marine veteran Robert Novotny, the chapter captain of RWB Long Island, explained that he filled his pack with 3 days’ worth of food, clothes, water and a tent, which is what he would’ve brought on a mission. He estimated it weighed 35 to 40 pounds.
“I’m ready to go whenever,” he said jokingly, and explained that the team also ran the Boston Marathon with their packs.
The group represented the Suffolk County Veterans Runs Series as a whole and manned a tent on the lawn to spread awareness of both their organization and the next race in the series: Heart of an Eagle 5K in East Islip.
Following the run, Benjamin Tupaj, one of the Marines whose life was saved by Haerter and Yale, read a speech given by General John Kelly after Haerter’s death that “most accurately characterizes the events that I experienced,” he told the crowd.
“In all of the instantaneous violence, Yale and Haerter never hesitated,” he read. “They never stepped back. They never even started to step aside … with their feet spread shoulder-width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons.”
Tupaj travelled from Jacksonville, North Carolina to attend the event. “This race is extremely important,” he said afterward. “It keeps alive the memory of the amazing sacrifice of Jordan and Jonathon and exemplifies what it means to serve and what our American heroes are doing all across the world right now.”
After Tupaj’s speech was the Final Roll Call ceremony honoring fallen soldiers. Local Gold Star Families, who lost their sons and daughters while serving in the military, solemnly accepted a rose from Lyles and rang a bell three times in memory of their loved one.
Anthony LaFountain, 24, from the Springs Fire Department, attended with his girlfriend, Cheyenne Banville. Both are a part of Mission 22, an organization that raises awareness of veteran suicide. LaFountain ran with an American flag and a tactical vest.
“I do it because I want support the people who serve our country,’ he said. “I want to feel just a minute of the pain that they go through when they’re hustling out there. I love everybody who fights for this country and I want to do my best to support them.”