NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
Department of Defense Identifies Navy, Coast Guard Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two sailors and one coast guardsman who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died April 24, 2004, in the Northern Persian Gulf as a result of a waterborne attack. They were assigned to the USS Firebolt, forward deployed to Manama, Bahrain.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael J. Pernaselli, 27, of Monroe, New York
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher E. Watts, 28, of Knoxville, Tennessee
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal, 24, of Smithtown, New York. Bruckenthal was assigned to Tactical Law Enforcement Team South Detachment 403.
South Florida Coast Guardsman Killed In Suicide Attack
A South Florida Coast Guardsman died in Iraq Saturday (24 April 2004) during a suicide attack on an oil facility he was protecting.
“We're all very proud of Nathan. He did what he was destined to do,” said Nathan Bruckenthal's mother, Lauri Bullock.
The 25-year-old Coast Guardsman is the first guardsman killed in action since the Vietnam War. He and two Navy sailors were killed when they intercepted and inspected a boat packed with explosives and manned by suicide bombers off the coast of Iraq.
“He was a public servant from when he was a little boy. He always wanted to be on the fire department. He wanted to be a policeman just like his dad. His stepdad was an officer in the Army and he wanted to emulate them and grow up to be those kind of men — strong, and brave and faithful and honorable,” Bullock said.
Bruckenthal will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He leaves behind his 25-year-old wife, who is three months pregnant.
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 Saturday 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 and are recovering at a Kuwait military hospital.
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.
On Monday, Bruckenthal's family was making arrangements to bury him at Arlington National Cemetery, fulfilling one of the Coast Guardsman's final requests.
“We won't forget him,” Ric Bruckenthal said.
The Makah honor fallen guardsman
Nathan and Pattie Bruckenthal met and married in Neah Bay.
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, born in Stony Brook, New York, became the first Coast Guardsman killed in action since the Vietnam War and one of three servicemen with ties to Washington state to die in April.
Bruckenthal and two U.S. Navy sailors were killed last weekend by suicide bombers as they protected oil terminals 100 miles from Iraq's main port of Umm Qasr. It was Bruckenthal's second tour in Iraq.
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.
“He was a very fun-loving boy,” his father, Ric Bruckenthal, of Northport, N.Y., told The Associated Press. “He was always a happy child, and he turned into a happy young adult. We're very proud of what Nathan did.”
In addition to his father, Bruckenthal is survived by his 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.”
Makah community honors Coast Guardsman killed in Iraq
NEAH BAY, Washington — Makah tribal leaders, military veterans and high school athletes joined their fellow citizens at a memorial service to honor Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal.
He was killed April 24 when suicide bombers in boats attacked pumping stations in the Persian Gulf. Bruckenthal became the first member of the Coast Guard to die in battle since the Vietnam War.
The Makah community remembers him well. He joined the Neah Bay station in spring 2001 and served two years in this coastal town on the northwestern tip of Washington state.
“He meant a lot to our community,” said the station's commanding officer, Chief Warrant Officer Mike Tumulty. “That's why this memorial service is being presented.”
More than 200 people gathered at the Neah Bay High School gym Friday to commemorate Bruckenthal, 24, as a beloved husband and father-to-be and a widely respected Coast Guardsman.
He was also honored for work as a reserve police officer, a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical services responder, and a high school assistant football coach.
Outside, a message on the school's readerboard said, “Nathan, All Honor To You” and the Coast Guard motto, “Semper Paratus,” or Always Ready. Posters and banners inside the gym carried messages such as “Nate, American soldier, Fallen Friend, Forever Hero.”
Opening the memorial ceremony, Coast Guard officers presented an M-16 rifle, topped with a combat helmet.
Makah tribal members performed a ceremony honoring and blessing the fallen soldier.
They also draped a traditional blanket around the shoulders of Coast Guardsman James King. The blanket will later be ceremoniously wrapped around Bruckenthal's widow, Patti, who lives in Opa-Locka, Fla.
Tribal Chairman Ben Johnson presented a handcarved and painted paddle to King, who will present it to Patti Bruckenthal. “I never knew the gentleman, but I feel I now do,” Johnson said.
King and Petty Officer Fred Wilson, now based in Portland, Ore., have been chosen by Patti Bruckenthal as ambassadors to represent the Coast Guard station at Bruckenthal's funeral. He will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
“He willingly went into harm's way to protect our men from terrorism,” said Coast Guard 13th District Chaplain Ed Carroll, who led the service in prayer. “Life most assuredly is mobile … but every now and then it will drop us into a mess, just like the conflict in Iraq.”
A long line of friends and colleagues came forward to speak during a video-recorded open microphone time, sharing stories about the man they loved and appreciated.
Neah Bay Police Chief T.J. Greene said Bruckenthal “did so much for our police department” and everyone knew of him.
“Nate gave unconditionally and that is why he was so loved in this community,” Greene said.
Members of Native American Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1481 gave Bruckenthal a 21-gun salute.
The damage controlman from Smithtown, N.Y., was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq at the time of the attack aboard a U.S. Navy vessel that killed two other Navy sailors.
He was based at the Coast Guard Air Station in the Miami suburb of Opa-Locka.
Bruckenthal is survived by his wife; his father, Eric; mother, Laurie Bullock; and sister, NoaBeth.
He Wanted To Serve
Joining the Coast Guard seemed like the right choice for Nathan B. Bruckenthal.
He hoped to work in law enforcement like his father, a police chief on Long Island, New York.
“He wanted to be a cop, but he didn't want to be just a regular cop,” said his sister, Noabeth Bruckenthal. Maybe he'd do drug enforcement or border control or immigration, she said, and the military experience would help. “He also wanted to serve his country,” she said.
On April 24, 2004, Nathan Bruckenthal, a Herndon High School graduate, was killed in a suicide bomb attack near an oil terminal in the Persian Gulf, the first member of the Coast Guard to be killed in combat since Vietnam. He is scheduled to be buried tomorrow at Arlington National Cemetery.
It was his second wartime tour to the region, a troubling reality that left both Nathan and members of his family anxious, his sister said.
“The first time, we were like, ‘This is what you signed up to do.' But the second time, we were like, . . . ‘Why do you have to go again?'” she said. “Statistically, the numbers were with him: ‘He'll be fine. It's only 100 days.' The odds are, you come home safe. That's what we thought.”
Noabeth and her mother received a call at their home in Ashburn in Loudoun County on April 24 saying Nathan had been seriously injured. After family members placed a follow-up call the next morning, a team was dispatched to their home to tell them Nathan had been killed on an interception mission.
He was part of a Coast Guard tactical law enforcement team based in Florida. An earlier Coast Guard assignment had him stationed in Washington state, where he met the woman he would marry. Patricia Bruckenthal is expecting the couple's first child later this year.
Nathan Bruckenthal, who spent much time hanging with, and helping, his friends, had been eager to be home, his sister said.
“Obviously, he didn't like it over there,” Noabeth said. “He didn't like shells going off he could hear. He didn't like hearing rocks thrown at the barracks. . . . He thought people would be more welcoming and grateful, but that's not what he found to be true in most cases.”
She said a single image of her intensely likable brother continued to replay itself in her head: that of Nate grabbing his English bulldog's lip and piping in a playful, guttural roar, “Ahhhhhhggaa!”
“Nate looked like a bulldog, but really he wasn't,” she said. “He was a good guy.”
After a Life of Constant Travel, Coming Home in a Coffin
Nathan B. Bruckenthal was given to small but meaningful gestures. His friends and family recalled that he used to wear the jersey of the high school football team he coached even after football season. He gave his two best friends friendship bracelets when he graduated from high school in 1997. He called his wife three times the day before he died.
Petty Officer Bruckenthal, 24, died April 25, 2004, after suicide bombers detonated their boat in the Persian Gulf near an oil terminal in Basra, Iraq. Two United States Navy sailors were also killed in the blast. Petty Officer Bruckenthal was buried yesterday in Arlington National Cemetery, the 59th member of the military to be interred there since the invasion of Iraq began last year.
He was the first Coast Guard sailor to die in combat since the Vietnam War, but his story is the story of many of the 758 military members reported to have died in Iraq.
Nathan Bruckenthal was born in Stony Brook, on Long Island, and raised there until age 6. When he was 6, his parents divorced; his sister lived with their mother, who remarried. His stepfather was in the Army and moved the family to Hawaii, then to Ridgefield, Conn., in 1991. He made monthly visits to see his father, Ric, who had also remarried, in Northport, on Long Island.
At Ridgefield High School, a guidance counselor recalled that Nathan Bruckenthal was a member of a school club called LINK, which stood for Let's Include New Kids. It was not that Mr. Bruckenthal, who was popular and outgoing, needed new friends, but that he wanted to help others make them. But his grades did not stand out, and there would have been no mistaking him for “a model kid,” his sister said.
In summer 1995, right before his junior year, his mother and stepfather separated, and he and his sister, Noa Beth Bruckenthal, moved to northern Virginia with their mother.
It was a difficult time, Ms. Bruckenthal, 26, said. Nathan Bruckenthal missed his circle of friends in Connecticut. He became known for making weekend trips to Ridgefield from Ashburn, Virginia. He showed up with his dark hair bleached blond.
Just after graduating from high school in Virginia, Mr. Bruckenthal moved back to Ridgefield. “He grew into a big burly guy,” said his father, the Northport Police Department chief.
Nathan Bruckenthal, a rugged 6 foot 2 and 220 pounds, joined the Ridgefield volunteer fire department. His family and friends recalled that he had always been intrigued with police and fire departments, and volunteered in one or the other, or both, most of his adult life.
He lived in the garages and family rooms of his friends and worked a series of low-paying jobs. Then, Ms. Bruckenthal said, he began living out of his car. “He was running out of options,” she said. So he enlisted in the Coast Guard, which was headquartered nearby in New London.
He was sent to the Coast Guard station in Neah Bay in the northwest corner of Washington on the Makah Indian Reservation. He met a college student, Pattie, who was studying the Makah Indian culture, and they married in 2002. They got an English bulldog named Matilda, who was the “ugliest, fattest dog in the world,” his father said. “It's part of his persona. Why would you pick a dog like that?”
After Sept. 11, friends said, he felt the call to serve even more strongly. He and his wife moved to the Miami area, where he worked in an elite unit of the Coast Guard that traveled the seas boarding vessels to search for contraband. Before Sept. 11, the focus of the unit was searching for drugs. After September 11, 2001, the unit began searching for evidence of terrorism.
In 2003, Petty Officer Bruckenthal's unit was dispatched to Iraq, where it began training Navy sailors on law enforcement techniques for boarding vessels. The unit stopped an Iraqi vessel laying mines in the Persian Gulf, Ric Bruckenthal said.
In February, Petty Officer Bruckenthal, returned to Iraq for a second time. He was to be home by June. Before he left, he learned that his wife was pregnant.
In the week after his death, his sister struggled to focus her anger. She said that she had felt a distance from her brother in recent years. She had been holding out hope that they would become close again.
She resented seeing him become, as she called it, indoctrinated with his law enforcement duties. She faulted the military's use of young soldiers, its culture of advancement based on performance in the field and Petty Officer Bruckenthal himself for agreeing to do a second tour. With the baby on the way, he had finally built the home and life he had wanted all his life, she said, “but he's not alive to enjoy it.”
Family Mourns Its ‘Guardian in Life'
Petty Officer Was First Coast Guard Member Killed in Combat Since Vietnam War
In the weeks after he learned his wife was pregnant and before he was killed by a suicide attack in the Persian Gulf last month, Nathan Bruckenthal's priorities were changing.
It was his second wartime tour to the region with his Coast Guard interception team, and commanders said his sights were spot on the enemy: He had identified the cargo boat that threatened an Iraqi oil terminal and American vessels, they said, and headed straight for it.
But Petty Officer 3rd Class Bruckenthal, who was buried yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery, had his imagination around a different kind of duty.
“He was a lot more gung-ho last year than this year,” his mother, Laurie Bruckenthal Bullock, said. “All he wanted to do was come home.”
Hundreds of men and women in pressed blue Coast Guard uniforms stood quietly on a sunny swath of still-unmarked Arlington grass, as Adm. Thomas H. Collins, commandant of the Coast Guard, handed Bruckenthal's wife, Patricia, the meticulously folded American flag that had draped her husband's casket.
Following a rifle salute and taps, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta offered condolences to family members before Patricia Bruckenthal, her hands shaking, knelt to press her lips against the shiny wood.
At a memorial Thursday in Herndon, where Bruckenthal had graduated from high school, and in conversations between harried arrangements, family members sought to put Nathan back in the context that had brought them so much happiness over his 24 years.
“He was a big, loud, boisterous, dancing, singing fool,” his mother said. He was a handsome do-gooder, a volunteer firefighter, a mentor, a guardian. “I'm not bragging. These are just facts. I'm just extremely proud of him. I loved his heart.”
Noabeth Bruckenthal said her brother was a “pivot point” for his friends, the focus of an intensely loyal group that was central to his life.
“He liked mountain biking, camping and beer,” she said, and he could often be found on a friend's boat.
He met Patricia while stationed in Washington state, where she was studying on an Indian reservation. He became the reservation's youth football coach. They got married at the Space Needle. He wore sunglasses and a steel gray kilt that revealed calf tattoos. “It was kind of cheesy, but it was cute,” Noabeth Bruckenthal said.
Patricia is expecting the couple's first child this year.
Two Coast Guard officers from the base at Washington's Neah Bay brought a memorial offering for Patricia from the Makah tribe: an orange, yellow, turquoise and black blanket. “It's a symbol of them wrapping her up in their arms,” one of the officers said.
She sat nestled in the blanket throughout Thursday's memorial.
Bruckenthal, a Long Island, N.Y., native, had hoped his Coast Guard service would lead to a law enforcement career upon his return.
“He wanted to serve. He also wanted approval from my father, who is a police officer, and he got it,” Noabeth Bruckenthal said. “My father's very proud of him.”
“I think it's inbred,” Bruckenthal's mother added. “You and I would never think of going into a burning building. But that's what he did.”
Bullock, who lives in Ashburn, hoped that might mean a first job in the Herndon or Leesburg police department. But there was a problem. “My main concern, believe it or not, was where could he afford to live,” she said.
But she had a solution: She would build a big house with an apartment for him and Patricia. Nathan wasn't so sure, telling her, “I'm not living in your house, Mom.”
For a man who enjoyed helping others, Bruckenthal was unnerved by the hostility he and his colleagues sometimes encountered in the Persian Gulf, his sister said.
“So many people were fooled, or fooled themselves, into thinking people would say, ‘Yeah! You're here!' But that's not reality,” Noabeth Bruckenthal said.
The vessel that caught Bruckenthal's attention while on patrol in the Gulf detonated as he and other U.S. service members neared, making him the first member of the Coast Guard to be killed in combat since the Vietnam War. U.S. Navy sailors Michael Pernaselli of Monroe, N.Y., and Christopher Watts of Knoxville, Tenn., also were killed in the April 24 attack.
“You thought, ‘Good, he went to the Coast Guard,' ” Bullock recalled. She took some comfort in his choice of service, but she also knew the dangers.
“Nathan was a guardian in life. That was his job,” she said. “He was naturally born to guard us.”
BRUCKENTHAL, NATHAN B., DC3, USCG
Of Dania Beach, Florida, on Saturday, April 24, 2004, at Armed Forces Hospital, Kuwait City. Beloved husband of Patricia Bruckenthal; son of Laurie Bruckenthal Bullock of Ashburn, Virginia, and Eric Bruckenthal of Northport, New York; stepson of Pat Bruckenthal; brother of Noabeth Bruckenthal of Ashburn, Virginia, Matthew and Michael Bruckenthal, both of Northport, New York; grandson of Elaine and Rudy Bruckenthal of Queens, New York. The family will receive friends from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m., with a memorial service to be held at 7 p.m., on Thursday, May 6, 2004, at ADAMS-GREEN FUNERAL HOME, 721 Elden St., Herndon, Virginia.
Graveside service will be held on Friday, May 7, 2004, 11 a.m. at Arlington National Cemetery with Military Honors. (Friends please gather at the Administration Building at 10:30 a.m.) In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Nathan Bruckenthal Memorial Fund, 39 Schooner Rd., Northport, NY 11768. www.adamsgreen.com
Saturday, December 11, 2004
Daughter born after dad dies in Iraq
‘The circle of life will continue,' grandfather says
The only Coast Guardsman killed in the war in Iraq has become a father.
Harper Natalie Bruckenthal, daughter of Petty Officer Nathan and Pattie Bruckenthal, was born in Seattle on November 19, 2004, weighing 7 pounds, the slain Coast Guardsman's father, Eric Bruckenthal, said from his home on New York's Long Island yesterday.
“The circle of life will continue. We're really happy about her birth, and we're still sad about Nathan's loss,” Ric Bruckenthal said yesterday of the granddaughter born seven months after his son's death. “One door closes, another opens.”
Nathan Bruckenthal was so excited after learning that he was to become a dad that he called his wife and family frequently in the last days of his life, reassuring them of his love and that he would be home soon.
Instead, the 24-year-old became the first Coast Guardsman killed in action since the Vietnam War. On April 24 in the Persian Gulf, a seven-member naval boarding team of which Bruckenthal was a part intercepted a suicide boat sailing near the Khawr Al Amaya oil terminal.
As the boarding party approached the suspicious-looking dhow, the smaller boat exploded, flipping the U.S. boat. Bruckenthal and two Navy sailors were killed instantly. Three others were seriously wounded.
Their actions, however, are credited with preventing wider loss of life and destruction had the vessel reached the terminal. Bruckenthal, who was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, was posthumously awarded the bronze star for valor.
Bruckenthal, from Stony Brook, New York, had served at Coast Guard Station Neah Bay, where he became known for his volunteer work and friendship with many in the Makah Nation. The tribe sent emissaries with a special blessing for his widow and unborn child when he was buried.
Bruckenthal met his wife in Neah Bay when she was a Pacific Lutheran University student serving an internship there.
Pattie Bruckenthal now lives in Seattle but could not be reached for comment yesterday. “She's doing as well as can be expected,” her father-in-law said, and recently was mulling how best to make her way into life as a single mom, considering whether to go to law school, into nursing or perhaps teaching.
“We're all still obviously going on with life,” he said.
The girl is named Harper for one of her father's favorite authors, Harper Lee, who wrote “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and Natalie for Nathan, her grandfather said.
The baby's birth even was acknowledged in the Congressional Record.
“The birth of Harper Natalie Bruckenthal ensures that everything that was good about Nathan Bruckenthal will live on for another generation and many more to come,” the statement by New York Rep. Steve Israel said. “It is a better world because people like Nathan Bruckenthal answered the call to duty, made great sacrifices and met the greatest challenge posed to every generation: leaving behind a better world for their children.”
HOW TO HELP
Donations to a fund for Nathan Bruckenthal's new daughter can be made to: the Nathan Bruckenthal Memorial Trust, PO Box 398, Northport, N.Y. 11768
Soldier with Ridgefield roots chosen for book
Harper Bruckenthal, 1½, visits the grave of her father, former Ridgefield resident
Nathan Bruckenthal, who was killed in Iraq in 2004.
At 1½ years, Harper Bruckenthal can see and touch the buildings and plaque named in honor of the father she never met.
And soon she will have another keepsake — her father's story of heroism and service featured as part of a book dedicated to fallen soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Monday marked the second year since of the death of Coast Guardsman Nathan Bruckenthal, a former Ridgefield resident killed in Iraq.
The Navy base in Norfolk, Virginia, held a memorial Monday and dedicated its Patrol Craft Center of Excellence to him and two other Navy sailors. In October 2005, a housing barracks, plaque and memorabilia at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Montauk, New York, was dedicated in his name.
Nathan Bruckenthal has received the Bronze Star with Valor, the Purple Heart and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.
A few months ago author Rebecca Pepin was researching fallen soldiers on the Internet for her
book “Faces of Freedom,” a book of stories honoring one soldier from each state who died in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Nathan Bruckenthal (second from left)
“There is not one story that is not touching, but Nathan was special,” said Pepin because he was the first Coast Guardsman to die in combat since the Vietnam War.
“He was an obvious choice,” said Pepin, 32, of Abingdon, Virginia. “I broke down when I saw his little girl and wife (on the Web site),” she said.
Nathan's wife, Patricia “Pattie” Bruckenthal was seven months pregnant with their daughter when her husband was killed in Iraq.
Nathan Bruckenthal will represent Connecticut in the book. Bruckenthal and his family lived in Ridgefield from 1992 to 1995, where he was a volunteer firefighter from 1997 to 1998.
On April 24, 2004, Bruckenthal, 24, was killed in action when he and two Navy sailors intercepted a cargo ship in an oil terminal in Al-Basra, Iraq. They were on a nearby inflatable boat when the cargo ship exploded, said military officials.
Bruckenthal was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on May 7, 2004.
Recently the Bruckenthal family went to the Arlington cemetery in Virginia to mark the second anniversary of his death. Nathan's mother, Laurie Bullock, lives in Virginia.
“The baby was with us,” said Nathan's father Ric Bruckenthal, who called Harper an extension of Nathan.
“A lot of people out there are not lucky enough to have that. We are extremely fortunate,” he said.
Having spent some time in Sweden with Pattie's relatives, the little girl speaks English and Swedish.
“She is our little blessing,” said Ric Bruckenthal, the chief of police in Northport, New York.
Having Nathan featured in the book “is just wonderful,” said Ric Bruckenthal. “We are very proud she picked him to represent Connecticut.”
All proceeds for the book will go to veterans organizations.
One organization is Fisher House which provides free housing for families visiting wounded soldiers at hospitals.
Another is the Wounded Warrior Project whose mission is to raise public awareness and enlist aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women, to help severely injured service members to aid and assist each other, and to provide direct programs and services to meet their needs.
While working as a TV anchor in South Carolina, Pepin did stories on veterans, but was only able to do short pieces. She didn't think veterans were getting “enough kudos. They are doing a lot of good things and people need to realize it.”
She wanted to use her skills to “make a difference and make awareness (of the soldiers who have died in the war). At the very, very least I want to make sure the families realize their loved ones are not forgotten.”
Pepin's husband, Derek Pepin, served in the Army as a Black Hawk pilot for seven years before getting out in 1999.
This month, Pepin, who is Canadian, took her test to become a U.S. citizen. She passed the test and is waiting for a letter in the mail for the official ceremony.
The book is her “way of thanking the people that gave me the privilege. It is pretty special to become a citizen,” she said.
Pepin hopes to finish the book by early 2007.
The Face of War
By Patricia Bruckenthal – Nathan's Step-Mother
Time is marked in rows
An anniversary without a card
An anniversary for too many mothers
The other mothers’ morn as I do
I am every mother.
I am the face of war
His daughter visits her new playground
She plays the stone game
Stones left by visitors
Move them up and down, give them away, put them back
She giggles as she kisses her marble daddy
Hers is the face of war
In the row behind a lover sits
She places a bottle of beer by his name
And settles down for their day
In her bag, her lunch and book
She turns her face towards the sun
To warm the face of war
His brothers roll over his resting place
The rough and tumble
Of lost football games
The bond of brothers
They smile and joke
Theirs are the faces of war
In rows in front the young ones come
Fallen friend to be remembered
Wearing uniforms of baggie jeans and “hoodies”
With the letters of schools and teams once shared
They sing their songs
Voices in the face of war
Our time is marked by rows
Christian, Muslim, Buddist, Jew
Mothers, lovers, brothers, and friends
For here in these rows of stone
We find our peace
Here, in the face of war
Coast Guard widow awarded chance to help wounded soldiers
Courtesy of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
When her husband, Nathan, was killed while serving with the Coast Guard in Iraq four years ago, Pattie Bruckenthal was home in Seattle, awaiting both him and the birth of their first child.
A daughter, Natalie Harper Bruckenthal — named for her dad and a favorite writer, Harper Lee — arrived in the world seven months later, destined to know her dad through the memories of his family and friends and the example of her mom.
Pattie Bruckenthal, then 24, eventually left Seattle, motivated to do something in the spirit of her husband. She wanted to become a nurse, hoping one day to help comfort and heal injured veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
On Tuesday night, Bruckenthal's dream will draw closer to reality when the nonprofit Coast Guard Foundation will award her a full scholarship to George Mason University during ceremonies at the Fourth Annual “Tribute to the Coast Guard” in the nation's capital. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is keynote speaker.
“The war may have taken Nathan from us, but it didn't take away my yearning to help others. I really want to give back to the wounded soldiers,” Bruckenthal, now living with her daughter near her mother-in-law in Ashburn, Virginia, said in a statement.
Bruckenthal was out of the country visiting relatives and unavailable for comment.
“The realization hit me — like probably so many other wives whose husbands are serving — that life can change on a dime. One minute I was a happy wife with a husband who loved serving his country in the Coast Guard; the next I was a widow with a newborn. And yet I knew that somehow I had to continue on, to pay things forward, if you will,” she said.
The Coast Guard Foundation provides various programs and projects to the 47,000 members of the Coast Guard and their families. Pattie Bruckenthal is one of two recipients this year of a “Fallen Heroes Scholarship” created specifically for families of Coast Guard personnel who die in the line of duty.
Bruckenthal's husband, Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal, 24, became the first Coast Guardsman killed in combat since the Vietnam War. He died April 24, 2004, stopping a waterborne suicide terrorist attack on two oil wells off Basra, Iraq.
Bruckenthal, on his second deployment to Iraq, and two Navy sailors on a tactical law enforcement team intercepted a dhow — a sailing ship common in those waters — headed for the oil wells. The three died as they prepared to board, and explosives in the dhow were detonated.
Bruckenthal was a New York transplant, where his father, Eric, was a Northport, New York, police chief. He met his wife when he was assigned from 2001 to 2003 to the Coast Guard station in Neah Bay and volunteered his time to help the Makah tribal community.
Pattie Bruckenthal at the time was a Pacific Lutheran University student serving an internship on the Makah reservation there.
When the Neah Bay community learned of his death, Makah people blessed an orange, yellow, green and black blanket, then turned it over to two Coast Guard escorts for transport. They took the blanket to Arlington National Cemetery, wrapping Pattie in it to protect and comfort her during her husband's funeral May 7, 2004.
The couple had sacrificed much together on behalf of Bruckenthal's service. They spent neither of their two wedding anniversaries together as Nate Bruckenthal served in Iraq. Though Pattie Bruckenthal was interested in nursing, the couple could not afford the tuition to further her education.
Bruckenthal told the foundation that the scholarship will allow her to attend classes and attend to her daughter's needs. She is slated to graduate in 2010.
“With the help I've gotten from the Coast Guard Foundation, I too, am going to take every chance to get involved and help others overcome their wounds, their sadness and their fears,” the slain Coast Guardsman's widow said.
“It's amazing how somebody you don't even know would extend their hand and help somebody else out,” she said. “That, I believe, is a true American.”
Learn more about the Coast Guard Foundation and the Fallen Heroes Scholarship at http://www.cgfdn.org
Harper Bruckenthal Visits Her Father
Pall bearers carry the casket of DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal during his interment ceremony.
Pall bearers carry the casket of DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal during his interment ceremony
Coast Guard CommanderGlenn Grahl, Commanding Officer of TACLET-South stands in front of Commandant Admiral
Thomas H. Collins during the interment ceremony of DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal.
Pall bearers fold the national ensign during DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal's interment ceremony.
Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thomas H. Collins offer words of comfort while presenting the national ensign
to Patti Bruckenthal, DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal's widow.
Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thomas H. Collins offer words of comfort while presenting the national ensign
\to Patti Bruckenthal, DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal's widow
A lone Coast Guard Auxiliarist plays taps during the funeral of DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal at Arlington National Cemetery.
BRUCKENTHAL, NATHAN B
DC3 US COAST GUARD
VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 01/05/1999 – 04/24/2004
DATE OF BIRTH: 07/17/1979
DATE OF DEATH: 04/24/2004
DATE OF INTERMENT: 05/07/2004
BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 7978 – Arlington National Cemetery
Patricia Bruckenthal, of Ashburn, Virginia, hugs her two-year-old daughter Harper near the gravesite
of her husband Nathan Bruckenthal, Friday, March 23, 2007, at Arlington National Cemetery
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard