USS Firebolt’s crew remembers fallen U.S. service members

Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and their families joined together for a memorial service and 5K held at Naval Support Activity Bahrain to honor the ultimate sacrifice made by three fallen U.S. service members, April 24.

On Saturday, April 24, 2004, a seven-member team from the forward-deployed patrol coastal ship USS Firebolt (PC 10), conducting maritime security operations in the Northern Arabian Gulf, was dispatched in an rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) to clear multiple fishing dhows that were operating in a restricted area around an Iraqi oil terminal.

As the team approached one of the dhows, it abruptly maneuvered toward Firebolt’s crew and exploded in an apparent suicide bombing, injuring four crew members and claiming the lives of three U.S. service members: U.S. Coast Guard Damage Controlman 3rd Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal, 24, of Smithtown, New York; Signalman 2nd Class Christopher E. Watts, 28, of Knoxville, Tennessee; Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Michael J. Pernaselli, 27, of Monroe, New York.

Firebolt’s crew celebrates the heroic lives of their fallen shipmates with a memorial service and 5K run every April.

“We always want to make this event bigger and better to honor the Sailors and Coast Guardsman who have gone before us and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Allan Pavlak, a Sailor from Firebolt. “As a crew we have the privilege to represent those guys every time we put the uniform on.”

Lt. Cmdr. Larry R. Ford, Firebolt’s commanding officer, gave welcoming remarks for the ceremony.

“The memorial ceremony is an extremely important event to the crew,”
said Ford. “It helps us to remember the importance of what we do here on a day to day basis, and strengthen the ties between the Navy, the Coast Guard, and our partner nations here and abroad. The 5K run has grown in popularity the last couple of years, and is a positive way to carry on the spirit of our fallen shipmates.”

The run started at the Firebolt Memorial, led over the bridge to NSA’s Mina Salman Pier passing by where Firebolt is moored, and finished back at the memorial. More than 100 runners participated in this year’s memorial service and 5K.

“On behalf of the crew, we would just like to thank everyone for their help in spreading the word for the event and all the people behind the coordination as well,” said Pavlak. “The Firebolt and her crew look forward to seeing more participants for years to come!”

Even though the ceremony may last only one day, it’s a reminder for the rest of us not to take anything for granted.

“The freedoms we enjoy are not free and they are paid for by the sacrifice of armed forces service members and support personnel every day, all across the globe,” said Ford. “At times our young men and women pay the ultimate sacrifice, as in the case of Pernaselli, Watts, and Bruckenthal. I ask that all persons wearing the cloth of our nation take the time to consider the importance of what we do on a daily basis, and ensure that we don’t take our incredible opportunities for granted.”

Image: US Navy