News Releases

Murray Pays Tribute to First Coast Guardsman Killed in Iraq

Apr 28 2004

Petty Officer Nathan B. Bruckenthal had ties to Washington State

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray today paid tribute to Petty Officer Nathan B. Bruckenthal, the first Coast Guardsman killed in Iraq. Petty Officer Bruckenthal served two years in western Washington at the Coast Guard Station Neah Bay.

Senator Murray submitted the following statement for inclusion in the Congressional Record.

“Mr. President, I rise today to honor Petty Officer Nathan B. Bruckenthal for his service to the United Sates Coast Guard and his commitment to his country. Petty Officer Bruckenthal was killed in action in Iraq on April 25, 2004 as he sought to intercept a marine vessel attempting to launch a terrorist attack.

Petty Officer Bruckenthal’s death reminds us of the dangerous mission that the Coast Guard performs every day, at home and overseas, in support of the nation’s defense.

It is with a deep respect for the Coast Guard and the many valiant Americans who serve in the Coast Guard, that I come to the floor today to pay tribute to the first Coast Guardsmen killed in Iraq. U.S. Coast Guard Damage Controlman Third Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal was killed along with two U.S. Navy sailors, Petty Officer First Class Michael J. Pernaselli and Petty Officer Second Class Christopher E. Watts, trying to protect oil terminals off the coast of Iraq. A coordinated suicide bombing attack struck members of the coalition Maritime Interception Operations team as they attempted to board a small boat that threatened the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal.

This tragic loss of the first Coast Guard member killed in battle since Vietnam highlights the critical and often overlooked role of Coast Guard operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom. At the height of combat operations, the Coast Guard had approximately 1,250 personnel deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom for port and coastal security, maritime law enforcement, humanitarian aid, maintenance of navigational waterways, contingency preparedness for environmental terrorism, and training the newly established Iraqi coast guard. Coast Guard support to Operation Iraqi Freedom continues today with approximately 300 people supporting these vital operations.

Petty Officer Bruckenthal enlisted in the Coast Guard six years ago. I am proud to say his service included two years in western Washington at the Coast Guard Station Neah Bay. In addition to protecting the safety of lives at sea, he was a dedicated citizen of the Clallum County community. Petty Officer Bruckenthal made time to volunteer as a Neah Bay fire fighter, an emergency medical technician, a reserve police officer, and a coach for the Neah Bay High School. He was known for his terrific work with children and his passion for law enforcement.

As many brave members of our armed forces, Petty Officer Bruckenthal was serving on his second tour in Iraq. He served from February 2003 to May 2003 in Operation Iraqi Freedom where he received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon. He returned for a second tour in Iraq beginning February 2004. This was an extremely difficult and complex mission; particularly trying to distinguish between the enemy and the average citizens. Coast Guard is carrying a very heavy load in protecting the northern Arabian Gulf and the oil fueling stations which are essential to the recovery of the Iraqi economy.

I have long ties to the Coast Guard. In my leadership roles on the Transportation and Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittees, I have often noted the tremendous task the Coast Guard faces in terms of securing our nation’s ports and cargo terminals. I have applauded their efforts in addressing the security issues facing our country’s ports. The 13th Coast Guard District is known as guardians of the Pacific Northwest. They have a presence in 14 locations throughout my state and are responsible for monitoring 200 facilities in Washington, including 60 designated waterfront facilities that handle oil and hazardous materials.

M. President, we know that many fine young American soldiers, sailors and airmen have made the ultimate sacrifice in the fight against terrorism and terrorists and in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have personally written to 25 families of service men and women with ties to the state of Washington who have died while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Now, sadly, a proud member of the Coast Guard has joined the list of Americans killed in action in defense of our country. We extend our deepest sympathies and respect to Petty Officer Bruckenthal’s family and friends. We join the Coast Guard family in honoring Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal. We will remember his brave service to the Coast Guard, to our nation’s defense, and to us all.”