As orange sun rays slowly brightened up a dark and sleepy deep purple sky, several thousand runners and walkers gathered on the dewy green lawns of J.C. Bermudez Park.
It was dawn on the Saturday morning of the first annual Doral 5K Freedom Run, a local race dedicated to the men and women in uniform who responded to the front lines in the wake of 9/11.
A “Coastie” (or Coast Guardsman) for more than 15 years, Joe Dumm joined a team of runners from his unit to participate in remembrance of Nathan Bruckenthal, the first Coast Guardsman killed in combat since the Vietnam War. He perished in April 2004 while serving on the U.S.S. Firebolt stationed in the Persian Gulf.
Dumm is now stationed at “Tactical Law Enforcement Unit South”, or simply, “
“Tacklet South,” the same unit his fallen brother was assigned to in Miami. He spoke for his unit about the experience: “The first 150 meters or so of the race course was dedicated to Nathan and we all ran together with a banner in his honor. Eight years after his loss, he is still in our thoughts and prayers and we came out here to remember his life and service.”
Bruckenthal was aboard one of several naval ships patrolling the North Arabian Gulf when a suspect vessel was viewed in area waters. He and several other officers attempted to board the vessel when explosives were detonated. Bruckenthal and two Navy sailors were killed.
Originally from Stony Brook, New York, Bruckenthal, age 24 at the time of his passing, left behind his wife of two years, Patty, then three months pregnant; his father, Ric Bruckenthal, and mother, Laurie Bruckenthal Bullock.
In a Washington Post story written May 2004, journalist Michael Laris quoted Laurie Bullock remembering her son “as a big, loud, boisterous, dancing, singing fool. He was a handsome do-gooder, a volunteer firefighter, a mentor, a guardian. I’m not bragging. These are just the facts. I’m just extremely proud of him. I loved his heart.”
On stage at the race dedication, Doral Mayor Juan Bermudez, District 12 County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Latin Grammy Award-winning musician Nestor Torres agreed that it was a day to celebrate the lives of those who fought to protect our hard won freedoms.
“There is no such thing as goodbye, we are eternal. And we the living are here to carry on the memories of those we have lost…until forever, hasta siempre,” said Nestor Torres before playing a commemorative flute solo in honor of the fallen soldiers.
Torres inspired the crowd after observing a moment of silence, saying: “You do not have to wear a uniform to be a public servant. We can all be warriors for peace by working to transform the anger in people’s hearts and recognize our shared humanity.
‘Coastie’ Dumm reflected on the day as one where he did not feel sad, but rather proud of those who preceded him.
“Unfortunately 9/11 was such a tragedy and so many people lost their lives, but I feel so proud of those heroes and I am not sad today,” he said. “I am lucky to have survived my own experiences and it is exciting to be able to be here and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Because of them I am able to run races like this and that is pretty amazing.”