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They died for America
Dedication honors the fallen in War on Terror
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Volunteer Jim Selacak put the finishing touches on the Traveling Tribute at Woodward Park. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The biggest Memorial Day Commemoration of its kind on the West Coast takes place today at Woodward Park.

Organizers of the Welcome Home Foundation anticipate 15,000 people will stop by Woodward Park in southeast Manteca to honor the fallen and celebrate the safe return of veterans.

The day includes dedication of the 10th panel of the Traveling Tribute honoring those who have died so far in The War on Terror, a massive car show with more than 400 vehicles, military displays, food booths, a children’s play area, 5K run, memorial ceremonies, a USO style entertainment show, free concert featuring country star and former Marine Josh Gracin, Memorial Day Weekend ceremonies, military flyovers and concludes with aerial fireworks. The traditional ceremonies are at 6 p.m. with the free Gracin concert from 7 to 8:30 a.m.

The run starts at 8 a.m., the car show opens at 10 a.m., and community worship is at 10 a.m. All other activities get underway at 11:30 a.m.

Arguably the most emotional event of a day filled that will be filled with many such moments will take place starting at 2:30 p.m.

That is when Gold Star families of the fallen from throughout the region will arrive at Woodward Park from a luncheon hosted by Prestige Senior Living by police escort. Once there, they will travel through a tunnel of 200 flags held by volunteers who have turned out to pay their respect for the sacrifice of sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers.

Included among the Gold Star families will be Laurie Bullock and NoaBeth Bruckenthal, mother and sister of Coast Guard Damage Controlman Third Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal whose image appears on the 10th panel.  They have traveled to Manteca from the East Coast for the ceremonies that start at 3 p.m.

Bruckenthal, who died on April 24, 2004, is the only Coast Guardsman to have died in combat since the Vietnam War.

Bruckenthal was recognized as a leader by his commanding officers and received numerous awards for drug extradition operations and alien interdiction in the Caribbean Sea and eastern Pacific including the National Defense Service Medal Coast Guard Merit Team Commendation and the Global War on Terrorism Medal with oak leaf.

Because of his unique skills and abilities he was chosen to be among the first Coast Guardsmen deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in early 2003. While there he received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and a Combat Action Ribbon for action in and around the port of Um Qasar.

In March 2004, at the request of his command staff, he volunteered for a second deployment to Iraq. Only weeks after discovering that his wife was carrying his unborn child, Nathan and two U.S. Navy sailors were killed when a suicide bomber attacked their rigid hull inflatable boat. Nathan had been chosen to become a part of the Taclet’s training unit and his job that afternoon was to instruct navy personnel how to conduct maritime interdiction operations. The team observed a suspicious vessel, which did not heed their commands. The team intercepted the vessel.

This selfless action of courage protected the crew aboard the U.S.S. Firebolt, the off-shore oil platform and the oil terminal itself at Khawr Al Amaya, in the northern Arabian Gulf. For this action, Nathan was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal, the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal with oak leaf, and his second Combat Action Ribbon. He was laid to rest with many of America’s best at Arlington National Cemetery.