When you find some quiet time this Memorial Day weekend, take a moment to offer a prayer of thanks for the selfless service of Nate Bruckenthal.
On April 24th, 2004, Damage Controlman Third Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal, USCG died from injuries sustained in the waters off Iraq in a suicide bombing attack by Islamic terrorists. He was the first Coast Guardsman to be killed in action since the Vietnam War. Petty Officer Bruckenthal left behind a wife, Pattie, and their only daughter, Harper (born seven months after her father’s death).
From the web site of the Nathan Bruckenthal Memorial Trust (no longer active):
Coast Guard Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal, a member of the Tactical Law Enforcement team (TACLET South) was killed in Iraq while serving on his second tour of duty there.
Nathan is the son of Ric Bruckenthal of Northport, NY and Laurie Bullock of Ashburn, Virginia, and brother to NoaBeth, Matthew and Michael. His wife, Patricia lives in Florida, where he was last stationed.
Nathan grew up in Long Island, NY, Hawaii, Virginia and Connecticut. He played football for Ridgefield (CT) high school where he was also a volunteer fire fighter. He joined the Coast Guard when he graduated from high school and served on Long Island and in Washington State before joining TACLET South.
He had a passion for serving his community as well as his country. “He always had an affinity for law enforcement work and fire-fighting work,” said his father, the Chief of Police in Northport, NY.
“We’re all very proud of Nathan. He did what he was destined to do,” said Nathan’s mother. “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.
“He was very honored to do anything the Coast Guard asked,” said Petty Officer Daniel Burgoyne, a shipmate and friend. “He was a true patriot. He loved serving his country.”
Most people remember Nathan as fun-loving, carefree and a wonderful friend. “He is the kind of person that you just fall in love with the minute that you meet him,” said longtime friend, Christine Engelbert. “He was just a special person,” said his close high school friend, Chris Gust. “He loved everybody and everybody loved him. He was the life of the party. He was a hero to his family, to his friends, to everyone.” Burgoyne said, “It was always good to have him around. You always could count on him for a laugh.
Nathan excelled at his mission of law enforcement and leadership. Because of his outstanding character, skills and experience he had been selected to join the training staff upon his return from his current deployment. “Anybody who comes to my training staff has the ability to work well with people, and that was what he was all about,” said Comander Glenn Grahl, commanding officer of TACLET South.
Nathan and Pattie were devoted to each other. When Nathan was home he never went anywhere without her. They could not celebrate their wedding anniversaries together because he was deployed in Iraq both last year and this year. Family meant a lot to Nathan. “He always said he wanted a family,” Burgoyne said. “He wanted lots of kids. He loved to play around.” Nathan was very excited about becoming a father for the first time.
Nathan is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Consider making a donation to the Nathan Bruckenthal Memorial Trust, created for the benefit of Pattie and Harper.
Thank you, Nathan. We’ll guard your family until you’re all reunited. Semper Paratus!