Dashan J. Briggs, of Port Jefferson Station, Christopher J. Raguso,...

Dashan J. Briggs, of Port Jefferson Station, Christopher J. Raguso, of Commack, and Christopher "Tripp" Zanetis, of Long Island City, Queens, were New York Air National Guardsmen who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq on Thursday. Credit: New York ANG; Commack FD; Debevoise & Plimpton

Seven U.S. service members were killed Thursday when their helicopter crashed in western Iraq. Among the victims were:

Christopher J. Raguso

A loving father of two little girls. A role model of a firefighter. A big gentle giant.

Jerome Quigley, a commissioner with the Commack Fire Department, used those words to describe Raguso, who he knew for 20 years. Raguso served as a lieutenant in the Commack Fire Department and in the FDNY.

“The guy was just a big gentle giant,” Quigley said. “He was a big guy and the first thing he would do is just grab you, hug you and kiss you on the forehead.”

Raguso, who lived in Commack with his wife and two daughters, celebrated his 39th birthday the day before the crash, and he spent some of that day on FaceTime with his two daughters, ages 5 and 6.

“He was a total family man. He spent a lot of time with the department and when he was off, he spent it with his family,” Quigley said.

Laura Raguso of East Northport choked up as she struggled with news of her son’s death. “I just can’t talk right now,” Raguso said through tears.

Raguso, a 13-year veteran of the FDNY, was stationed at Division 13 in Richmond Hill, Queens.

He joined the FDNY in March 2005 and was assigned to Ladder Company 113 in Flatbush, Brooklyn. In September 2016, he was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to Battalion 50 in Jamaica, Queens, the FDNY said. The department said Raguso was honored on six occasions for bravery and lifesaving actions.

Quigley said Raguso was attached to a search-and-rescue unit. He was an engineer on the helicopter and manned the gun on the side of the aircraft.

“Anytime he was asked to go and serve he never turned it down,” Quigley said.

Christopher J. Raguso in his Commack Fire Department gear in...

Christopher J. Raguso in his Commack Fire Department gear in an undated photo. Credit: Commack Fire Department

The two men had known each other a long time, so Friday was a day of grief and memories. Quigley recalled that they had spoken only two days earlier.

“He sent me pictures of him shooting, you know, practice shooting, and I sent him pictures from when I was in and we were joking back and forth,” said Quigley, who had served as a Marine in Iraq. “And I just said keep your head down and be safe. That was it.”

Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis

Whether he was volunteering at Ground Zero, investigating arson or taking four tours in Iraq as a member of the Air National Guard, Zanetis devoted his life to public service.

“There will never be anyone like Tripp,” said his sister, Angela Zanetis, in an interview Friday from her home in Carmel, Indiana. “Tripp died fighting for our country.”

When terrorists struck lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, Zanetis, then an undergraduate student at New York University, rushed into action. He helped first responders dig out the rubble at Ground Zero and distributed water to those in need, she said.

Three years later, Zanetis, 37, joined the FDNY and was assigned to Engine Company 28 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In 2007 he transferred to Ladder Company 11 in the same firehouse.

In April 2013, Zanetis, who lived for a time in Hampton Bays, was promoted to fire marshal and assigned to the Bureau of Fire Investigation’s Citywide South in Brooklyn. The following year, officials said, he was recognized for his bravery as part of an investigative unit.

In 2015, Zanetis took a leave from the FDNY and began pursuing a law degree, following in the footsteps of his father, John.

Last year, Zanetis, of Long Island City, obtained a law degree from Stanford University. He was working in the litigation department at Debevoise & Plimpton in Manhattan at the time of his death.

“He was an exceptional person and will be greatly missed by his many friends and colleagues in the firm,” the company said in a statement.

Dashan Briggs

The day before Briggs was deployed to Iraq, he stopped by Riverhead to visit his grandfather, the man who raised him.

His grandson was his usual jovial self, Eli Briggs, 82, said Friday, teasing his grandmother, talking sports. Six months is not so long, Briggs remembered telling his grandson.

“I said OK, take care of yourself, and he said he would,” Briggs recalled.

That was the last time the two spoke to each other.

On Thursday night, Briggs got a call from Dashan’s wife who broke the news to him. “It hurts,” he said as he touched his heart.

Briggs, 29, graduated from Riverhead High School, where he was an All Division fullback and outside linebacker for the football team that went undefeated in 2006.

“He was one of the great ones,” said Riverhead football coach Leif Shay. “My heart is heavy right now because he was one of my favorites.

Shay said he tried to talk Dashan into coaching. “But he just had a baby girl and decided to re-enlist because he thought that the military was the best way to support his family,” Shay said. “He had a troubled background, but he didn’t make any excuses. He just found a way to turn his life around. He exemplified what it was like to be a man.”

Briggs joined the Air National Guard, where he was a full-time member, in 2010 after considering joining the NYPD.

When he was single, he loved to ride motorcycles, but gave it up a few years ago after he got married and had two children, a boy, 2, and a girl, 1, Briggs said. The family settled in Port Jefferson Station.

“He loved his family to death and they loved him, too,” Briggs said.

This story was reported by Robert Brodsky, Chau Lam, Bob Herzog, Mark Morales and Craig Schneider. It was written by Brodsky.

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