Commack firefighter killed in Iraq military helicopter crash

Commack firefighter killed in Iraq military helicopter crash

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Christopher Raguso posthumously awarded title of honorary chief by Commack Fire Department

A military helicopter crash in Iraq has hit close to home for both the Commack and
Elwood communities.

Commack resident Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, 39, was among those killed in the March 15 helicopter crash. The 39-year-old was one of seven airmen on board a HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter carrying out a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, an American-led mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, according to the United States Department of Defense. The DOD said the cause of the crash is under investigation.

Raguso was assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing at the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton. His mother, Laura Raguso of East Northport, said she pleaded with him not to go on this most
recent deployment.

“I begged him not to do it,” she said at a press conference, but that Raguso responded by saying if he didn’t go and do it, who would? “As a mother, he crushed me that day.”

“I begged him not to do it.”
— Laura Raguso

Raguso was also a 13-year veteran of the Fire Department of the City of New York, where he was currently serving as a lieutenant assigned to Battalion 50 in Queens. On six different occasions, he was cited for bravery and life-saving actions either for his individual actions or as part of a unit.

“Lt. Raguso and Fire Marshal [Christopher] Zanetis bravely wore two uniforms in their extraordinary lives of service    as New York City firefighters and as members of the United States Armed Forces,” said FDNY Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “The hearts and prayers of the entire department are with their loved ones and with the families of their five fellow service members who lost their lives defending our country.”

But to Commack residents, Raguso was perhaps best known for his service with the Commack Fire Department as lieutenant of Company 4, located off Kings Park Road. He  joined as a volunteer in 2000, according to Commack Fire Commissioner Pat Fazio, and  previously served as captain of Company 2
located on Elwood Road.

“He was a devoted father, devoted husband, devoted family man and a true patriot to our company,” Fazio said. “It’s unfortunate the timing and passing of his death while serving his country and fighting for the freedoms we all enjoy.”

“He was a devoted father, devoted husband, devoted family man and a true patriot to our company.”
— Pat Fazio

Raguso was posthumously bestowed the rank of honorary fire chief based on a unanimous vote of the Commack Fire Department’s membership March 16. He was well known in the firehouse as he played an “integral role” in training new members, according to Fazio.

“It’s not for any other reason other than he would have achieved the rank of chief, no doubt,” the commissioner said. “It was an aspiration he had, it was well known and something he would have achieved.”

Fazio said several members of the Commack Fire Department drove to Delaware to join Raguso’s wife, Carmela, and the family at Dover Air Force Base to see Raguso remains return home March 18.

“We will forever be there for the family,” he said. “His wife and his children will forever be part of the family.”

Elwood school district also mourned Raguso’s passing; he was a 1997 graduate of John Glenn High School.

“The district extends its deepest condolences to Lt. Raguso’s family and friends,” wrote Superintendent Kenneth Bossert in a message on the district’s website. “He died a true hero serving our country, and we join the entire nation in mourning his passing.”

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a Staten Island-based nonprofit in memory of New York firefighter Stephen Siller who died in the 9/11 attacks, has stepped forward to donate $100,000 toward paying off the Raguso family’s mortgage.

“He died a true hero serving our country, and we join the entire nation in mourning his passing.”
— Kenneth Bossert

“Our mission is to honor and support military personnel and first responders,” said spokeswoman Catherine Christman. “In Christopher Raguso, you have both in one person.”

Christman said the Raguso family has undergone many recent hardships as his wife, Carmela, is a recent breast cancer survivor. He is also survived by his two daughters, Eva Rose, 5, and Mila Teresa, 6. No details on his wake or funeral arrangements were available as of  this publication’s press time.

Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches; Capt. Christopher Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City; and Staff Sgt. Dashan  Briggs, of Port Jefferson Station, were the others from the rescue wing involved in the fatal crash, according to the DOD. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered flags on all state government buildings to be flown at half-staff in their honor March 19.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) similarly directed the flags on all Town of Huntington buildings flown at half-staff on Monday.

“The people in our town are deeply grateful to your loved ones for their sacrifice in the protection of our nation’s security,” Lupinacci said in a statement. “On behalf [of] the Town of Huntington, you have our deepest sympathies and our prayers will be with you and your families at this sad and tragic time.” Master Sgt. William Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida, and Staff Sgt. Carl Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida, both assigned to the Air Force Reserve 308th Rescue Squadron, also died in the crash.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), a current member of the U.S. Army Reserve, mourned the fallen service members in a statement.

“The people in our town are deeply grateful to your loved ones for their sacrifice in the protection of our nation’s security.”
— Chad Lupinacci

“These fallen airmen are the best of who we are,” he said. “There are no words that fully describe the profound sorrow and immense gratitude that consume our community today. There are no words to describe the emptiness this loss leaves in the heart of every Long Islander. There is, however, no shortage of ways to describe these seven service members — selfless, heroes, patriots and everything we aspire to be as a people, as a nation and as Americans.”

Commack Fire Department is encouraging those who wish to make a donation to the Raguso family to donate funds in Raguso’s name to the Silver Shield Foundation, a nonprofit that provides educational support for children and widows of firefighters killed in the line of duty. Donations can be made by visiting www.silvershieldfoundation.org/donate or mailing to: Silver Shield Foundation, 870 United Nations Plaza, 1st Floor, New York, NY 10017.

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is also collecting donations from residents to continue helping pay off the Raguso family’s mortgage. Donations can be made by visiting: www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/t2traguso.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money to support Raguso’s daughters at www.gofundme.com/5a6lxdc. It has received more than $29,000 of its $50,000 goal as of 3:15 p.m. March 19.

In addition, the St. James Fire Department announced it will be donating the proceeds of its Pancakes with the Easter Bunny event, set for March 25 from 8 to 11 a.m., to the Tunnel to Towers foundation and Raguso family. The cost is $7 for adults, $3 for children and the fifth family member eats free.

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