Ten years ago, two Marines met each other for the first time.
Donning their gear and heading to the entrance gate of their Ramadi outpost, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter had never met each other before.
Being from different battalions, the two likely never even knew each other’s names when they first locked eyes. One was only just coming into the sector while the other was finishing up his tour. Yale was a poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife, daughter, mother, and sister who all depended on him for support. Haerter was a middle-class white kid from New York.
Despite the many contrasts between them, they were still Marines assigned to work together on a guard shift- little did they know, however, that this shift would be the most important detail of their lives and one that would forever bond them as brothers.
The detail was fairly straightforward: protect the entry point to a derelict building that many Marines and Iraqi police called “home.” Don’t let anything in, but stick to the rules of engagement. In 2008, the war was still hot, albeit often fought with one hand politically and metaphorically tied behind the warfighter’s back.
To this day, nobody knows what they talked about as they took to their posts- if they even talked at all. Staring down the 60-70-yard-long alleyway the two men “blessed” with such a detail at Joint Security Station Nasser were likely more concerned about what they were going to do after the shift than what they would do to pass the time during.
That was, until a large blue truck turned onto the narrow entry road and began to pick up speed.
Taking note, the two Marines watched intently as the vehicle accelerated, blowing through the serpentine. With danger upon them, the young men did what any good infantryman would do: they took aim, leaned in and filled the truck with lead.
Somewhere, between the first shot fired and the blast from the estimated 2,000 pounds of vehicle-borne explosives that killed them, they had become one- a bond that the word “family” simply can’t come close to describing.
In all likelihood, they knew they weren’t going to survive. In a battle of man versus large truck, man rarely comes out on top. Accepting their fate, Yale and Haerter seemed to have only one thought in mind: “protect the Marines behind us.”
From the time the men spotted the truck until the time the blast removed them from this mortal coil, only six seconds had passed. Two men -one from Virginia and one from New York- left their friends, family and fellow Marines behind in an awe-inspiring show of selflessness and courage, never to be seen or heard from again.
In 2010, four days after his own son was killed in Afghanistan, then-Marine Lieutenant General John Kelly recounted the tale of these two Marines, recounting the security footage that showed the men in their final moments.
Inspired by their bravery and the accounts of the duo’s actions when retold by Iraqi police who witnessed the event, it was Kelly who submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses.
“Six seconds,” he said as he recalled seeing the footage. “Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty… into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight- for you.”
On April 22nd, 2008, two Marines met each other for the first time. Moments later, they were bonded forever.
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