Post co-authored by Christopher Lagan
In 2004, Damage Controlman 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal became the first Coast Guardsman killed in action since the Vietnam War while serving in Iraq. Nate Bruckenthal was an inspiration both to his shipmates and the Long Island, N.Y. community that he called home. Nate’s influence on one group of Long Islanders was so strong that they set out earlier this summer to honor the fallen Coastie with a row around Long Island in support of the Wounded Warrior Project.
Chris Cuddihy, Ryan Cuddihy, Rick Shalvoy and Chris Rizopoulos, set out in a 24-foot wooden lifesaving vessel to complete the 300-mile circumnavigation of Long Island on August 15 following a memorial service at Coast Guard Station Eatons Neck. The ‘Round Island Row,’ which raised $4,000 dollars for the Wounded Warriors Project, would test the will of the four friends, and the strength of Nate’s memory would help one man overcome the very limits of his physical endurance.
“Station Eatons Neck was honored to be the ceremonial launching point for this courageous feat in support of the Wounded Warrior Project,” said commanding officer Chief Warrant Officer Steve Pollock. “The ceremony was even more poignant for us because it was dedicated to DC3 Nate Bruckenthal. The Bruckenthals are and will remain part of our family.”
As the four men rowed through New York Harbor, a thunderstorm broke out over Long Island Sound. While the lifesaving boat would withstand the treacherous waves, Rick Shalvoy was forced to abandon the row after suffering from seasickness and severe dehydration.
Down a man, the crew carried on in hopes of completing the trip. It was not to be. With only three men rowing, Mother Nature would force the crew to beach their boat and abandon the row.
Defeat was too bitter a pill for Shalvoy to swallow. Rehydrated and determined, he set out in a one-man row boat, rowed out to the location where his comrades were forced to abandon, and resumed his journey.
“I had to think long and hard if someone was trying to tell me something,” recalls Shalvoy. “Failure was not an option. That’s just not the way this mission was going to go.”
Shalvoy would row for six more days through heavy seas and a two-day nor’easter to complete his mission as Coasties kept a watchful eye and cheered on this civilian who was pushing himself to the limit in honor of one of their own.
Those cheers and the persistent resolve of Shalvoy were reminiscent of another row back in 1999. During that year’s ‘Row for a Cure’, Shalvoy would drop out of the race after an incident with a powerboat only to resume his row to the cheers of Coasties aboard Coast Guard Cutter Point Wells … including a young Nate Bruckenthal.
“If Nate were here right now I would want to thank him,” said Shalvoy. “Throughout his life, he was an example of selfless service.”