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May 4, 2004

Purple Heart for Coast Guardsman

The Coast Guard will present the Purple Heart to Boatswains Mate Third Class Joseph T. Ruggiero Wednesday in Miami for injuries sustained while defending the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal in Iraq April 24.

Ruggiero, 23, from Revere, Mass., is the first Coast Guard recipient of the Purple Heart since the Vietnam War and will receive the award from Vice Admiral James D. Hull, Commander Coast Guard Atlantic Area. 

Coast Guard Damage Controlman Third Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal, 24, from Smithtown, N.Y., was also involved in the same attack and died from injuries sustained when a small boat exploded as he and six other coalition sailors attempted to board it.  The two men were assigned to Law Enforcement Detachment 403 from Tactical Law Enforcement Team South in Miami, Fla., and were deployed to Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia at the time of the incident. 

DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal (left) and BM3 Joseph Ruggiero together in the Arabian Gulf.  DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal (left) and BM3 Joseph Ruggiero together in the Arabian Gulf.  Nathan Bruckenthal (left) and Joseph Ruggiero together in the Arabian Gulf

DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal (left) and BM3 Joseph Ruggiero together in the Arabian Gulf. 

"In a time when our country has been attacked and needs us most, I'm honored to stand with my fellow shipmates defending our nation," said Ruggiero in October after being nominated for a USO award given to junior service members serving overseas. "I feel that I am fulfilling my civil duty for my country and am proud that I am working as part of the Shield of Freedom."

Ruggiero also reenlisted in the Coast Guard for four years Sunday on the forecastle of the USS Firebolt, one week after being wounded and the day after returning to Bahrain from the hospital in Kuwait where he was treated for his injuries.

The Purple Heart was established by General George Washington at Newburgh, New York, on Aug. 7, 1782, during the Revolutionary War.  The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to any member of "an Armed Force or any civilian national of the United States who has been wounded or killed in action."

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