Nathan B. Bruckenthal—June 2007 Shipment Honoree
South Florida Coast Guardsman Killed In Suicide AttackSource: Arlington National Cemetery Website
A Dania Beach, Florida, man has become the first Coast Guard member to die in combat since the Vietnam War. Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal, 24, who was based out of Coast Guard Air Station Miami, died in an explosion on April 24, 2004 when an unidentified boat he was attempting to board blew up. It was Bruckenthal’s second tour in Iraq and he was 30 days from returning home.
“He was a very fun-loving boy,” said Bruckenthal’s father, Ric Bruckenthal, of Northport, New York. “He was always a happy child and he turned into a happy young adult. We’re very proud of what Nathan did.”
Bruckenthal, who left a pregnant wife behind, was one of three servicemen who died during an attack on two oil terminals in the northern Arabian Gulf.
According to the Coast Guard, Bruckenthal was part of a seven-member Coast Guard and U.S. Navy boarding team that was approaching an unidentified dhow, a small boat often used for fishing in the Gulf, when the dhow exploded as it approached the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal.
About 20 minutes later, two smaller speedboats approached the Al Basrah Oil Terminal and also exploded as security teams tried to intercept them.
Two sailors were also killed, Petty Officer 1st Class Michael J. Pernaselli, a 27-year-old boatswain’s mate from Monroe, New York, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher E. Watts, a 28-year-old signalman from Knoxville, Tennessee. Three other sailors and another Coast Guardsman were wounded.
Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attack in the name of the Jamaat al-Tawhid wa’l-Jihad, or Unity and Jihad Group, in a message posted on an Islamic Web site that often carries statements said to be from al-Qaida.
A Long Island native, Bruckenthal grew up in Hawaii, Virginia and Connecticut. His stepfather served in the Army and his father is police chief in Northport.
Bruckenthal joined the Coast Guard when he was 18 and served in Long Island and Washington State before joining Tactical Law Enforcement Team South, known as TACLET South, at Coast Guard Air Station Miami.
TACLET South has sent law enforcement detachments to help since the beginning of operations in Iraq. Coast Guard operations in Iraq include port and coastal security, maritime law enforcement, humanitarian aid and training of the newly established Iraqi coast guard.
Bruckenthal was first deployed to Iraq from February to May 2003 and returned in February.
“He was very honored to do anything that the Coast Guard asked him,” said Petty Officer Daniel Burgoyne, who was Bruckenthal’s shipmate, friend and neighbor in Dania Beach. “He was a true patriot. He loved serving his country.”
Burgoyne recalled going mountain biking with Bruckenthal and said his shipmate once purposely led him on a particularly difficult trail “just to see if I could handle it.”
“He was always trying to test someone I think to make sure that he could hang out with him, but in the end he just wanted to be your friend,” Burgoyne said.
Burgoyne said serving with Bruckenthal was fun since he found ways to lighten the mood on long missions.
“When we were on deployments he would always tell stories about the dumbest things,” he said. “It was always good to have him around. You always could count on him for a laugh.”
Because of the young petty officer’s rapport with his peers, Commander Glenn Grahl, commanding officer of TACLET South, had tapped him to join the training staff upon his return. Only the cream of the crop is picked for the assignment of training other members of TACLET South, Grahl said.
“Anybody who comes to my training staff has the ability to work well with people, and that was what he was all about,” he said.
Bruckenthal had been married two years, but missed both anniversaries because he was in Iraq. His wife, Pattie, is three months pregnant with their first child, for whom the Coast Guard is setting up a scholarship and trust fund.
Bruckenthal was excited about his impending fatherhood, Burgoyne said, and he loved his wife.
“He would never go anywhere without her,” he said.
Bruckenthal is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, fulfilling one of the Coast Guardsman’s final requests.
The Makah honor fallen guardsmanSource: By Mike Barber, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter, May 1, 2004
Though a full-time Coast Guardsman during his 2001-2003 tour of duty there, Petty Officer “Nate” Bruckenthal immersed himself in the Makah Nation community, volunteering with the local fire company, Police Department and football team.
Last night during a memorial service in Neah Bay, the 24-year-old, six-year Coast Guard veteran who gave of himself to the community, before he gave his life in Iraq last week, was given something by the Makah: their songs and prayers, wrapped in a blanket destined for his widow, who carries the couple’s unborn child. Special Coast Guard “ambassadors” are charged with carrying it to Arlington National Cemetery for her before his funeral Friday. It is a spiritual gesture as hallowed to the Makah as is the folded American flag she will receive.
“He showed us respect and helped our community. We show him respect,” said Arnie Hunter, traditional chief of Neah Bay, a former Marine and commander of Native American Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 11418. “A lot of people knew him, and it hit home. Kids especially knew him from football practice and games. We want to honor him for the honorable things he’s done in the service and for the community.”
Bruckenthal’s death brought the war home to remote Neah Bay in the northwest corner of Washington, home to the nearly 2,000-member Makah Tribe.
Nate and Pattie Bruckenthal met in Neah Bay when he was stationed there. She was a student from Pacific Lutheran University, which has a special educational program with the Makah. Married only two years, the couple never spent an anniversary together because he was on duty in Iraq.
When they were together, they were inseparable, friends said. Bruckenthal, looking forward to coming home in 30 days, was excited about impending fatherhood.
“This is family, their extended West Coast family,” Chief Warrant Officer Mike Tumulty, commander of Coast Guard Station Neah Bay, said of the mourning Coast Guard and Makah communities.
“He asked Pattie to marry him on Bowman Beach,” Tumulty recalled.
Tribal member Joe McGimpsey, an emergency medical technician, said Bruckenthal “was well-liked. Volunteering was the first thing he did; he helped the community.”
Lending an unconditional hand was a trait many recall about the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bruckenthal. As a teen he was a Ridgefield, Connecticut, volunteer firefighter. After 9/11, he flew to New York to escort funerals for two firefighters and a police officer killed in the terrorist attacks. He stayed into October, spending vacation time at ground zero to pass out refreshments to firefighters, police officers and construction workers.
It was consistent with Bruckenthal’s respect for a family tradition of public service — his dad is a police officer, his stepfather a career Army veteran, and his grandfather a World War II veteran. He also embraced life optimistically, his father said.
Bruckenthal is survived by his wife, Patti Bruckenthal; father, Ric Bruckenthal, of Northport, NY; mother, Laurie Bullock, of Herndon, Virginia; a sister, Noa Beth, 26; and brothers Matthew, 15, and Michael, 12.
Bruckenthal and his wife left Neah Bay last year when he joined the Tactical Law Enforcement Team South in Miami. The Coast Guard unit sent detachments to Iraq to provide security, humanitarian aid and train the new Iraqi Coast Guard.
In a recent e-mail, Bruckenthal told of anxieties, saying he wondered if each day would be his last.
Last night’s memorial service was “a mix of military, for God and country, and of the sovereign nation of Neah Bay, respecting tradition,” Tumulty said.
Lieutenant Commander Ed Carroll, the Coast Guard District 13 chaplain, led the service. Five empty chairs represented Bruckenthal’s five local personas — fallen warrior, rescuer, fireman, police officer, assistant football coach.
Then the diverse communities merged. The Native American VFW Post 11418 honor guard brought in the colors. A Coast Guard boatswain’s whistle piped. Prayer songs, or ci-qa’s, were sung and drummed. The blanket-wrapping ceremony blessing the robe with songs and prayers drew special attention. Coast Guard officials assigned a special escort, Petty Officers James King and Fred Wilson, representing the local station and the Makah Nation, to ensure it properly reaches his widow in Arlington National Cemetery next week
The ceremony isn’t something often done for non-tribal members, Hunter and McGimpsey said. “That’s from the community. It’s to give her our strength to hold her up,” McGimpsey said.
The gesture affected Bruckenthal’s family and friends on the East Coast. “It is really so heartfelt,” was all an emotional family member at Bruckenthal’s father home could say.
In Florida, Kristi George, who knew Bruckenthal and is helping coordinate donations for his wife, said, “I am in complete awe. What a complete honor this is for the Bruckenthal family.”