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Families of two slain Marines awarded Navy Cross

Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter and Cpl. Jonathan Yale stood and fired as a truck loaded with explosives raced toward them, keeping it from entering a Marine and Iraqi police compound.

February 21, 2009|Tony Perry

SAN DIEGO — Navy Cross medals were presented Friday to the families of two Marines killed while thwarting a suicide bomber and saving the lives of dozens of Marines and Iraqis.

Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter and Cpl. Jonathan Yale have earned "a place of legend in Marine Corps history for generations to come," Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter said at an emotional ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico, Va.

Haerter, 19, and Yale, 21, were killed April 22, 2008, while guarding a Marine and Iraqi police compound in Ramadi, Iraq.

Twenty-five Navy Crosses, the second-highest medal for bravery that can be bestowed on a Marine or sailor, have been awarded since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

As Haerter and Yale stood guard, a truck laden with 2,000 pounds of explosives raced toward the compound gate. As Iraqi guards fled, the Marines continued to fire at the truck speeding at them.

The truck slowed, then exploded, fatally injuring the two Marines and flattening nearby buildings. But more than 50 Marines and Iraqi police in the compound were spared.

"The explosion blew out all of the windows over 150 meters from where the blast hit," Lance Cpl. Benjamin Tupaj said. "They saved all of our lives."

Parents of some of the Marines saved by Haerter and Yale attended the ceremony as a sign of respect and to express their gratitude to the families.

"When Nick was in Iraq, we prayed to God to protect him," said Steven Xiarhos, father of Lance Cpl. Nicholas Xiarhos. "But in reality, it was two of his brother Marines who saved him."

Yale, of Burkeville, Va., was part of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment. Haerter, of Sag Harbor, N.Y., was part of the 1st Battalion, 9th Regiment. Both regiments are based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. While in Iraq, the battalions were attached to the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Regimental Combat Team.

The two men were assigned to guard the main gate to the Joint Security Station Nasser in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.

"Although not from the same unit, they acted as one in response to the threat," Winter said. "They stood their ground."

On the morning of the attack, Haerter had only just arrived in Iraq; Yale was a few days from going home.

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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