Capt. Andreas B. O’Keeffe was an Air Force pilot who had been deployed to Iraq three times, and served in Afghanistan, in the Horn of Africa and in Texas during Hurricane Harvey.
But that wasn’t enough for the Center Moriches resident, his grieving father said.
O’Keeffe joined the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing, an extraction and rescue unit, in 2013 because he felt he had more to offer, his father explained.
“He figured he was not doing enough to serve his country,” Shán O’Keeffe said during a telephone interview Sunday.
O’Keeffe, 37, was one of seven airmen — including three Long Island residents — who were killed Thursday when an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in western Iraq.
Master Sgt. Chris Raguso, 39, of Commack, and Staff Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson Station, were the other Long Island men killed in Thursday’s crash. Both were also assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing.
Authorities have said there is no evidence the helicopter, used by the Air Force for combat search and rescue operations, had been shot down. The helicopter crashed near the town of Qaim in Anbar province. The Department of Defense said the cause of the crash remains under investigation.
“He was a wonderful man,” Shán O’Keeffe said of his son. “Exceedingly bright and so kind to everybody he met.”
O’Keeffe, who was single, earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of South Florida and a degree in law from Georgetown University, his father said.
Like O’Keeffe, Raguso felt an overwhelming obligation to serve his country, his mother said Sunday during a news conference held in Brooklyn by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
His mother, Laura Raguso, said she told her son, also with the 106th Rescue Unit, that she did not want him to return to Iraq on this most recent deployment.
“I begged him not to do it,” she said during the news conference at the Engine 249/Ladder 113 firehouse in Gowanus, where her son, known as “Goose,” a 13-year FDNY veteran, had been assigned. She said he responded by saying if he didn’t go, who would?
“As a mother, he crushed me that day,” she said.
Raguso is also survived by his wife, Carmella, and their two daughters. The Tunnel to Towers Foundation announced Sunday that it would contribute $100,000 to help Raguso’s family pay off their mortgage.
The organization called on people to go to its website tunnel2towers.org to pitch in.
“I ask everyone to be charitable and support this family,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
The others killed in the crash were Capt. Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City, Queens; Capt. Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, who was assigned to 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia; Master Sgt. William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida; and Staff Sgt. Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida. Rosch and Enis were assigned to the 308th Rescue Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.
“These fallen airmen are the best of who we are,” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said in a statement Sunday. “They are the embodiment of what makes this country the greatest in the world — the willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our exceptional nation.”