Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Marines Who Gave Their Lives to Stop Suicide Bomber Awarded Navy Cross

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New Year's Eve is often one for reflection of the year gone by and what it all means. Here's a story to help put things in perspective:

Marine Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter were standing guard duty at the main gate to Joint Security Station Nasser in Ramadi. Guard duty is often boring, sometimes thankless. But last April 22nd,the valor and courage of these two Marines was unmistakable. From the LA Times:

The sun had barely risen when the two sentries spotted a 20-foot-long truck headed toward the gate, weaving with increasing speed through the concrete barriers. Two Iraqi police officers assigned to the gate ran for their lives. So did several Iraqi police on the adjacent street.

Yale and Haerter tried to wave off the truck, but it kept coming. They opened fire, Yale with a machine gun, Haerter with an M-16. Their bullets peppered the radiator and windshield. The truck slowed but kept rolling.

A few dozen feet from the gate, the truck exploded. Investigators found that it was loaded with 2,000 pounds of explosives and that its driver, his hand on a "dead-man switch," was determined to commit suicide and slaughter Marines and Iraqi police.

The thunderous explosion rocked much of Ramadi, interrupting the morning call to prayers from the many mosques. A nearby mosque and a home were flattened. The blast ripped a crater 5 feet deep and 20 feet across into the street.

An investigation by the highest ranking Marine in Iraq, Major General John Kelly, prompted him to nominate both men for the Navy Cross.

When Marine technicians restored a damaged security camera, the images were undeniable.

While Iraqi police fled, Haerter and Yale had never flinched and never stopped firing as the Mercedes truck -- the same model used in the Beirut bombing -- sped directly toward them.

Without their steadfastness, the truck would probably have penetrated the compound before it exploded, and 50 or more Marines and Iraqis would have been killed. The incident happened in just six seconds.

"No time to talk it over; no time to call the lieutenant; no time to think about their own lives or even the American and Iraqi lives they were protecting," Kelly said. "More than enough time, however, to do their duty. They never hesitated or tried to escape."

Kelly nominated the two for the Navy Cross, the second-highest award for combat bravery for Marines and sailors. Even by the standards expected of Marine "grunts," their bravery was exceptional, Kelly said.

As you think of auld lang syne and the best and the worst of 2008, raise a glass to Marines Haerter and Yale, and say a prayer for their families. They were two of the best!

Hat tip 2H9
Cross posted at Say Anything

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