Coast Guard Heroes: Nathan Bruckenthal

The Coast Guard Compass was proud to unveil the first 25 heroes the service’s new fast response cutters would be named for and we are even prouder to share the next 10 names with you in a continuation of our Coast Guard Heroes series. Over the next two weeks we’ll be sharing profiles of the namesakes of the Coast Guard’s fast response cutters, from legends of the U.S. Life Saving Service to courageous men who served during the Vietnam War. Today, we share with you the story of DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal.

Written by Christopher Havern

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Nathan Brandt Bruckenthal was born on July 17, 1979, in Stony Brook, New York. He graduated from Herndon High School in Ashburn, Virginia, and enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard on Jan. 5, 1999.

He was later assigned to Tactical Law Enforcement Detachment South, LEDET 403, at Coast Guard Air Station Miami, Florida, and deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On April 24, 2004, while serving as part of Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia aboard USS Firebolt, Petty Officer 3rd Class Bruckenthal, a damage controlman, and two U. S. Navy sailors were killed in the line of duty while conducting maritime intercept operations in the North Arabian Gulf.

Bruckenthal and six other coalition sailors attempted to board a small boat near the Iraqi Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal. As they boarded the boat, it exploded. Bruckenthal later died from the wounds he sustained in the explosion.

Bruckenthal was the first Coast Guard member killed in action since the Vietnam War.

For his actions Bruckenthal was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”.

His Bronze Star Medal citation reads:

Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Brukenthal while deployed in support of Operation Iraqui Freedom. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Brukenthal while deployed in support of Operation Iraqui Freedom. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” (Posthumously) to Damage Controlman Third Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal, United States Coast Guard, for heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while serving as Boarding Officer with U.S.S. FIREBOLT (PC-10) and the United States Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment 403 during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 24 April 2004. While patrolling the security zone around the Al Basra Oil Terminal in Iraqi territorial waters, Petty Officer Bruckenthal detected a small, unidentified dhow proceeding towards the Oil Terminal. After maneuvering the tram to screen the oil terminal, Petty Officer Bruckenthal approached the dhow to investigate its actions. As the boarding team drew alongside the dhow, the attacker on board the vessel, realizing he had been discovered, detonated explosives packed on board, mortally wounding Petty Officer Bruckenthal. The explosion alerted all in the area to an ongoing coordinated attack, allowing security forces to destroy two additional explosive laden vessels, thereby preventing massive casualties, irreversible environmental damage, and the destruction of the Iraqi peoples’ major economic lifelines. By his zealous initiative, courageous actions and exceptional dedication to duty, Petty Officer Bruckenthal reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Coast Guard and the United States Naval Service.

In giving his life for his country, Bruckenthal was also posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.

He was interred at Section 60, Site 7978 in Arlington National Cemetery on May 7, 2004.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Bruckenthal being laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Bruckenthal being laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

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