Auto students make memorial for Iraq vet killed in action

COURTESY PHOTO | Airbrush artist, Richard Markham, puts the final touches on a picture of LCpl Jordan Haerter on the hood of the truck. In the background are H.B. Ward Auto Tech instructor Mike O’Hara, students Luke Lukovic and Namil Ramirez, Viet Nam Vet Mike Law, and Jordan’s father, Christian Haerter.

For this Veterans Day, auto technology students at H.B. Ward Career and Technical Center in Riverhead honored one local Purple Heart winner who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Those students, their teacher and representatives from Ohio Technical College repaired a 1953 Dodge M37 Power Wagon and airbrushed a memorial to Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter on its hood. The vehicle was purchased by his LCpl. Haerter’s father, Christian Haerter.

LCpl. Haerter, a rifleman, was killed in Iraq in 2008 when he and another soldier opened fire on a truck carrying a bomb that was speeding toward a security station. The truck exploded, killing LCpl Haerter and the other soldier.

The actions of LCpl Haerter, a 19-year-old from Sag Harbor, saved the lives of 33 Marines and 21 Iraqi police asleep inside the security station. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Combat Action Ribbon, the Navy Cross, and a number of other awards.

“We have been working on this vehicle since September,” said Auto Tech Instructor Mike O’Hara. “Almost every student has had a hand in making repairs to the Power Wagon. We repaired all the electrical wiring, replaced a seal in the rear differential, did exhaust work, replaced the tires, made a few other modifications and repairs and went over it from top to bottom.”

After the repairs were finished, Mr. O’Hara contacted Mike Law of Ohio Technical College. Mr. Law, a Vietnam War vet whose own son died in the Iraq war, offered the assistance of instructor and artist, Richard Markham, to help finish the airbrushing.

LCpl Haerter’s father said the new vehicle would “serve as a visual reminder of all veterans and the ongoing needs they have after they return from war.”

“I’m going to drive it in parades,” Mr. Haerter said. “It’s perfect for a parade, because it doesn’t really like to go over 45 mph.”

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