Two Marines who earned posthumous Navy Crosses for standing in the way of a truck filled with explosives in Iraq will be honored in the renaming of a mess hall on the base they called home.
The mess hall, in the Wallace Creek area of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will be named in honor of Cpl. Jonathan Yale, of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, of 1st Battalion 9th Marines, in a ceremony on Thursday, according to a Marine Corps news release.
Yale, 19, and Haerter, 21, were killed April 22, 2008 in Ramadi while guarding a vehicle checkpoint. A short surveillance video from that morning shows a large blue truck barreling toward the gate, as other personnel duck for safety. Yale and Haerter can't be seen in the video, but the smoke from their rifles is visible as they stood their ground and fired on the vehicle.
The driver was killed, and the truck, armed with 2,000 pounds of explosives, detonated before reaching the compound where more than 50 Marines and Iraqi personnel were sleeping.
Col. Kenneth DeTreux, 2/8's commanding officer, will lead the dedication ceremony to rename the building the Yale Haerter Mess Hall, according to the release.
In attendance will be representatives from the Yale and Haerter families including JoAnn Lyles, Haerter's mother.
Shortly before departing her Sag Harbor, New York, home to travel to Camp Lejeune, Lyles said she had been contacted on Facebook by another Marine from her hometown who sent her photos of the chow hall, where he'll eat every day.
"He walked in, and framed portraits of Jordan and Jonathan are there already, and he said, 'I know these guys,' " she said.
A Marine Corps spokesman, 1st Lt. Adam Flores, said the mess hall, which seats 200 will also contain copies of the Marines' Navy Cross citations.
Following the Marines' deaths, then-Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the top Marine commander in Iraq at the time, was so moved by the narrative of bravery that he personally led the investigation into their actions and submitted Yale and Haerter for the military's second-highest honor.
Recent months have seen a renewed effort to upgrade their Navy Crosses to Medals of Honor. Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., introduced legislation in March that would authorize President Barack Obama to take another look at the Marines' actions to determine their eligibility for the highest valor award. But while the bill received bipartisan sponsorship, it ultimately failed to pass out of committee. Barring that, Defense Department officials would need to uncover new and relevant information about the heroic incident to reconsider Yale and Haerter's awards.
Lyles said she is grateful for the Marines' efforts to honor their own heroes.
"Semper Fidelis is definitely strong within the Marines as not just a motto," she said. "It's how they live their lives."