He is our hero. We are his legacy.

This blog entry comes from a recruit who attended the building dedication aboard Training Center Cape May for Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal, who died during combat operations off the coast of Iraq. The ceremony was held today, the 13th anniversary of Bruckenthal’s graduation from basic training. Seaman Recruit Johnson was tasked with holding Bruckenthal’s company flag. Johnson’s company was also in attendance to the ceremony and they recited The Coast Guard Ethos. This is his story from that day.

Coast Guardsmen bow their heads for the invocation during the Bruckenthal Hall Dedication Ceremony at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nick Ameen.

Coast Guardsmen bow their heads for the invocation during the Bruckenthal Hall Dedication Ceremony at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nick Ameen.

Written by Seaman Recruit Jerome Johnson.

I was nervous when they told me I would be holding the November flag for the ceremony. I’ve only been in the Coast Guard eight weeks and couldn’t believe they would give me such a great responsibility. It’s his company flag – November 154. My company and I have heard about him since the day we got here. His name is on the tip of every staff member’s tongue. We’re constantly reminded of his sacrifice. He graduated from Training Center Cape May just like me. He stood in the same gym for graduation I will in a few short days. He’s walked the same paths and ate in the same galley. It’s fitting to name a building after him because I feel like somehow he’s always present here.

Seaman Recruit Jerome Johnson holds the November company flag during the Bruckenthal Hall Dedication Ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nick Ameen.

Seaman Recruit Jerome Johnson holds the November company flag during the Bruckenthal Hall Dedication Ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nick Ameen.

He died April 24, 2004, with two U.S. Navy sailors. I was only eight years old. I couldn’t have even begun to comprehend that level of sacrifice then. To be honest, I probably couldn’t have truly comprehended it seven weeks ago. It’s amazing how much a person can change in such a short period of time, but you have to change to follow in the footsteps of such great heroes. Every day we are reminded of them – Munro, Sexton, Goff, Etheridge and Flores. Aspiring to be like them will change anyone, but it changes them for the better. I am only now beginning to truly understand what it means to serve and sacrifice.

Patricia and Ric Bruckenthal, stepmother and father of the late Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal, place their hands over their hearts at the Bruckenthal Hall Dedication Ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nick Ameen.

Patricia and Ric Bruckenthal, stepmother and father of the late Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal, place their hands over their hearts at the Bruckenthal Hall Dedication Ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nick Ameen.

It was hard to believe how many people he’d touched during his lifetime. His father sat in the front row. The last Coast Guardsman to see him alive, Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Ruggiero, was also there to honor him. The Coast Guardsman who escorted him to his final resting place was the master of ceremonies. The commandant and Coast Guard reserve force master chief were there. If the people who are left behind are a true measure of character and commitment, he set the bar.

I never met him. I never served with him, but he was a Coast Guardsman. He is my brother because of that. My shipmates in attendance felt the same way. He’s our hero. We are his legacy. He lives on in each Coast Guardsman who graduates from Training Center Cape May. He is present in each Coast Guardsman standing the watch. We will never forget. Because now, he is truly always present here. His name is Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal. He died for our Freedom. Semper Paratus.

Salutes at the Bruckenthal Hall building dedication ceremony at Training Center Cape May, N.J. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Salutes at the Bruckenthal Hall building dedication ceremony at Training Center Cape May, N.J. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/diane.higgins.9256 Diane Higgins

    Wonderful tribute, although it is a shame there has to be one as we would rather he be walking this earth than be celebrated in death. He is surely missed by many. Love to the family he left behind.

  • Dan Mincher, LT, USCG, ret.

    Well said, shipmate. Well said. Carry on and thank you all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.curry.1245 S.j. Curry

    Well said Shipmate. Yankee 150

  • http://www.facebook.com/H60mech Craig Davis

    Excellent words, SR Johnson. Semper Paratus!

  • BM2 Alvarenga

    May you rest in peace shipmate and know that we are here to make sure that your legacy lives on, we are forever grateful for you service.

  • Dennis Nelson

    oorah shipmate…Kilo 177

  • http://www.facebook.com/ramona.vazquez.96 Ramona Vazquez

    Love you Family Noabeth, Laurie, Ric, Harper and Patti with the rest. I’m so sorry I couldn’t go however I felt the spirit of respect and love for Nate from the words and comments plus the article! Please know Nate’s legacy has reached more than 2500 to date with so many more that we cant count after the hurricane…we sent two truck loads to our Coasties in need from the Pantry….hundreds or thousands were helped! In our new location and rededication soon to follow, the words from President Bush will hang next to his likeness!

  • Noabeth Bruckenthal

    I regret I could not attend and share this ceremony. The Bruckenthal Family deeply appreciates the USCG, is ever honoring and remembering my brother, Nathan. Thank you sincerely, calm seas and fair winds to all Shipmates. God Bless the USCG.

  • Margaret Kift

    Respect and best wishes to the Noabeth and the Bruckenthal family in honour and memory of Nathan Bruckenthal. Regards Margaret & John Kift (Lorraines family in UK).

  • Mark Stevens

    Farewell Brother, God bless. Tango105

  • Eric Norton

    “It is not only the way this Coastie died that made him a hero but also the way that he LIVED”.
    Fair Winds and Following Seas

    I didn’t know PO Bruckenthal…….but he is a Coastie……so I will call him BROTHER.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Diana-White/100001577471824 Diana White

    Blessings to Caleb! Carrying on a family tradition of service to country and fellow man is honorable. I have such high regard for USCG!

  • http://www.facebook.com/richandnic.carroll RichandNic Carroll

    I am here now crying so bad, my son asks whats wrong, I can’t say yet. My name is Richard Carroll, I was a BM2, I did not know or have the prviledge of serving with DC3 but I do love the U.S. Coast Guard. We are the unsung heroes the ones out of the light, not cast as heroes all the time in war as others are. The Coast Guard has served in every war this country has been in. Other branches may or may not consider us military, I on the other hand don’t care. The fact is when the SAR alarm goes off we go, when the president callls we go, When the weather devistates we go, when just people or anyone needs us WE GO!. Call us what you want I don’t care. I know who we are, the people we save, help, fight for know who we are. The true heroes are the ones who act when everyone else is running away, the ones who know “I might Die” but still go. Sempur paratus is our guide. I can’t do this amazing job anymore but I feel grateful to have served with the best heroes this country arguribly has ever had.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richandnic.carroll RichandNic Carroll

    me as well