April 30, 2021 —
On a crisp and bright spring day, over 75 people gathered at the Bastion School of Fitness in Long Island, New York, to perform a grueling team workout. The workout included 24 back squats, 24 power cleans, followed by a 400 meter sprint for as many rounds for time. Why did this group wake up early on a Saturday to work out? The answer was simple: to honor and celebrate the life of a son, a father, a brother, and a hero.
The Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Association (CGTLEA) New York Chapter organized the memorial workout to celebrate the life and devotion to duty of Petty Officer Third Class Nate Bruckenthal, a damage controlman. Nate grew up in Stony Brook, New York, and served as both a volunteer police officer and firefighter, while serving on active duty in the Coast Guard. Nate was passionate about fitness and helping others, and volunteered for two deployments to Iraq while assigned to Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET) South. Nate came from a family of first responders. His father, Ric, retired as the Police Chief of the Northport, New York Police Department and his brother Matt continues to serves as a Sergeant on the Northport Police Department.
April 24th marked the 17th anniversary of Nate’s tragic death. Nate was killed while deployed for the Iraq War, becoming the first U.S. Coast Guard member killed in wartime action since the Vietnam War. Nate and six other coalition sailors from the U.S.S. Firebolt attempted to board a suspicious small boat heading toward the Iraqi Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal. Nate’s boarding team approached the boat to investigate its actions. As the boarding team drew alongside the boat, the attacker aboard the vessel, realizing he was discovered, detonated explosives packed on board, mortally wounding Nate and U.S. Navy Petty Officers Michael Pernaselli and Christopher Watts. 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.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Erich White, the officer in charge of Station Eaton’s Neck organized a memorial service to coincide with the “Bruck” workout. Station Eaton’s Neck crewmembers took Nate’s brothers under their wing and have hosted memorial ceremonies in remembrance of Nate over the last 17 years. Capt. Eva VanCamp, the Sector Long Island Sound commanding officer, presided over the memorial service. Firemen Apprentice Christopher Garcia-Rivera, Station Eaton Neck’s most junior crewmember read Nate’s biography and his Bronze Star with Valor citation. Both Ric and Matt Bruckenthal were in attendance and performed the workout.
“From the onset of learning that Nate had been killed in action to the memorial today, Coast Guard personnel from near and far, some known, most not, have always answered the call and have been there for us” said Ric Bruckenthal, who also holds the title of Honorary Chief Petty Officer.
The event was graciously hosted by Bastion School of Fitness where head trainer and New York Fire Department firefighter, James Carino, holds a veteran remembrance workout every weekend. Long Island Chief Petty Officers Association hosted a barbeque after the memorial and has been supporting the CGTLEA New York Chapter’s mission for the last four years.
Lt. Tony Emanuele, a reservist and Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent organized the CGTLEA New York Chapter in 2017. Emanuele learned of Nate’s legacy when he enlisted in 2005 and volunteered to deploy to Umm Qasr while assigned to U.S. Coast Guard TACLET Pacific.
The memorial raised over $1,500 to support the families of seriously injured or killed deployable specialized forces (DSF). The CGTLEA is a 100% volunteer run non-profit charitable organization that supports the families of seriously injured or killed DSF members. When catastrophic events occur, the organization rapidly dispenses emergency funds to support families and allow them to focus on what matters the most.
In close coordination with Mr. Bruckenthal and the foundation's board of directors, the CGTLEA started a scholarship to honor Nate for what he continues to represent today: a man of great integrity, character, and service. Annually, the foundation provides a $20,000 Bruckenthal Memorial Scholarship split between two eligible dependents of Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Association members in good standing.
“I often summarize that tragic day of April, 24, 2004, as a day we lost a son but, gained 50,000 plus surrogate sons and daughters - the United States Coast Guard,” said Mr. Bruckenthal. The CGTLEA New York Chapter will continue to celebrate Nate’s life and honor his legacy by holding a memorial workout each year and plans to hold other events in honor of fallen Deployable Specialized Forces members.
Please see www.cgtlea.org for more information about the Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Foundation or to make a donation.