The tributes have helped Nathan Bruckenthal's family cope with his death. Bruckenthal, a Coast Guard petty officer and Stony Brook native, was 24 when he was killed during his second deployment to Iraq in 2004.
Last month, he was honored again.
A barracks at the Coast Guard's training center in Cape May, N.J., was renamed for Bruckenthal, among the first Coast Guardsmen deployed to Iraq in early 2003. Etched into a slab of black granite outside the building are his portrait and the words "Bruckenthal Hall."
Bruckenthal's father, Ric, the Northport Village police chief, and Ric's wife, Patricia, were at Cape May for the dedication. Memorials like this make him feel proud of his son, Ric Bruckenthal said.
"It is also the thing that you'd give up in a heartbeat if he'd still be here," he said.
"But that's not going to happen . . . So this is how I and my family deal with it."
Nathan Bruckenthal grew up in Stony Brook, before moving with his mother, Laurie Bullock, to Virginia as a child. He regularly visited Northport, playing baseball with his brothers and visiting his father at the police station. He enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1999.
"From day one . . . he just loved it," said Ric Bruckenthal. He was sitting in his police office surrounded by mementos of his son, including framed pictures and plaques. "I think he found his place in the world."
Nathan was first stationed in Montauk, then sent to Virginia, where he trained to become a damage control officer. His responsibilities included firefighting and controlling floods.
He met his wife, also named Patricia, while working in Neah Bay in Washington state. She was three months pregnant with their daughter Harper when he died.
Nathan was killed in a suicide bombing while stationed off the coast of Iraq. He was on an inflatable boat with other guardsmen and Navy officers, when they noticed a suspicious vessel. When they went to intercept the vessel, a bomb was detonated.
Ric Bruckenthal said his son was flown to Bahrain and died there, one of three servicemen killed. Ric said he was notified while at a Northport Fire Department function. That night, he said, was "probably one of the worst nights of my life."
Almost nine years since his death, and just before the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Coast Guard unveiled "Bruckenthal Hall" -- home to 80 guardsmen.
"To us, Petty Officer Bruckenthal may have been killed in action that day in Iraq, but his legacy lives on in every recruit that graduates here," Coast Guard spokesman Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska said.
"With this building named after him, with a memorial in his honor, he is always present here and so that was one of the main drivers so people that pass through these gates will never forget that sacrifice that was paid that day," Brzuska said.