Cutter honors fallen shipmates during wreath laying ceremony

by Ltjg Steven Baldovsky, Coast Guard Cutter Wrangell

Persian Gulf – Crewmen aboard a U.S. Coast Guard cutter forward deployed in the Persian Gulf laid a ceremonial wreath in the water April 24, 2008 where a terrorist attack took the life of U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal.

The observance marked the four-year anniversary of the attack, and was held aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Wrangell, a 110-foot patrol boat home ported in South Portland, Maine.

Bruckenthal died after a terrorist dhow exploded while attempting to attack an oil platform he and his unit were guarding in the waters surrounding Iraq’s economically critical Khwar Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT).

Bruckenthal, 24, was the son of a police chief in a New York suburb and had been in the Coast Guard for six years before he was killed in the line of duty.

This was the first combat loss of life to a Coast Guardsman since the Vietnam War.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Pernaselli and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Watts were also killed during the attack. Pernaselli and Watts were at the time temporarilty assigned to USS Firebolt, a cyclone class, 170-foot coastal patrol boat on duty in the Persian Gulf, which is home ported in Little Creek, Va.

Today, the United States Coast Guard and its U.S. and Coalition allies still patrol the waters that these men died to protect.

As Wrangell’s crew laid the wreath, the USS Firebolt symbolically provided oil terminal security around KAAOT, demonstrating the ship’s resolve to keep the platforms safe at all costs despite the tragedy.

“These heroic servicemen knew very well that serving abroad, amidst sworn enemies and in the heat of a war zone, could result in the ultimate sacrifice,” said Lt. Mathew Moyer, Wrangells’ commanding officer.

“Without hesitation, they gave their lives for the betterment of the world, and to accomplish the mission. It’s servicemen like Nathan Brukenthal, Mike Pernaselli, and Christopher Watts that we owe our greatest respect and admiration to, as well as our remembrance.”

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