By Spc. Justin Nieto
SETAF Public Affairs
1st Lt. David
Bernstein may have been killed in action two years ago, but the Army and his
fellow Soldiers never forgot about him or his actions the day of his
Capt. John McDougall, 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry (Airborne),
served with Bernstein, who was the executive officer of Charlie Company in
Iraq and related the story of what happened.
“On the 18th of October in 2003, Charlie Company responded to what
they believed was a rocket firing point based on a calculated trajectory,”
said McDougall, who said the company believed the rocket fire was
originating from a town just south of Kirkuk. “The Charlie Company
commander, along with his men and Bernstein went to investigate.”
On the way to the suspected site, Charlie Company was ambushed by
insurgents using small arms fire, which resulted in Bernstein’s vehicle
flipping over on a berm and throwing the driver out and pinning him
underneath. Bernstein’s gunner was also shot in the back.
“Lt. Bernstein, already shot in the leg, gets out of the vehicle
while still taking fire and came around the side to attempt to free the
pinned driver,” said McDougall. “Bernstein revved the engine, got the
vehicle up the berm and freed the driver.”
Meanwhile, the other vehicle in the convoy put down the attack.
“They called a medivac for Bernstein, but it was too late, he bled out
right there,” said McDougall. “After the event, the chain of command looked
at what happened and wanted to award him the Silver Star for bravery in
Two years after that day, Bernstein’s family received a Silver Star award
on his behalf in a small ceremony held at his parent’s home in Vonore,
McDougall joined Lt. Col. Harry Tunnell, Bernstein’s battalion
commander in Iraq, for the ceremony and presentation of the award.
The community showed their support for the Bernstein family by
turning out in force for the event, including retired officers and even the
local chapter of the American Legion to perform as the Color Guard for the
“The family was very pleased, I believe,” said McDougall about the
family’s reaction to the event. “I think they were very grateful that we
would make this trip to do the presentation.”
McDougall said presenting the Silver Star two years after
Bernstein’s death made it possible to celebrate the actions of their son,
instead of it being presented during the funeral while the grieving process
was just beginning.
“The one thing I told them was ‘Sir, ma’am, there are dozens of
[Soldiers] who would love to be here if they could,’” said McDougall. “But
they’re all in Afghanistan, and I was the one who had the privilege to do
this. I know those men would do anything to be able to be here today.
“Dave is not forgotten.”
* The Outlook
is a community newspaper for Caserma Ederle and Camp Darby. The Outlook
is published every Tuesday by USAG Vicenza Public Affairs Office.
Grave marker for 1st Lieutenant David R. Bernstein in the
States Military Academy Cemetery, West Point, New York.
Lt. Bernstein was killed in action in Tarza, Iraq on
October 18, 2003 and was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart
David Bernstein, 24, formerly of
Phoenixville, Pa., a first lieutenant with the Army's 173rd Airborne
Infantry Brigade, was killed on October, 16, 2003, in Iraq, when enemy
forces ambushed his patrol with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms
fire. According to the local Phoenixville paper, the 173rd is famous for its
quick reactions, most often carried out by parachuting into war zones.
Bernstein was dropped into northern Iraq at the beginning of the war and had
remained there since, according to his father, Richard Bernstein. His father
told the paper, "He was an exceptional man and a wonderful person and he
will be missed terribly. He felt very indebted to this country for what it
has done for him, and for everyone. He wanted to serve his country, and he
David Bernstein was the 1997
valedictorian of his high school. He graduated fifth in his class from the
U.S. Military Academy at West Point four years later. His funeral was held
at the Jewish chapel at West Point. Survivors include his parents, a
brother, and sister.
There was a little joke in the
Bernstein family that the first through fourth ranking cadet got an award at
graduation, but there was no award for the cadet ranking fifth in their
class. Therefore, as a perpetual tribute to David, his family has
established the 1st Lt. David R. Bernstein Memorial Award to be given to
those in each graduating class of West Point who achieve the fifth highest
class standing. The award has Academy approval and donations may be made