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Friends, family remember LI soldier James McNaughton at fundraiser

U.S. Army Reserves Staff Sgt. James McNaughton, 27,

U.S. Army Reserves Staff Sgt. James McNaughton, 27, of Centereach, died on Aug. 3, 2005 in Iraq. Credit: William McNaughton

Ryan Wiggins remembers his friend, fallen soldier James McNaughton, for his loyalty.

Ryan’s brother, Eric, recalls McNaughton as a daredevil.

The close friendship the trio created during childhood formed an unbreakable bond.

And that is why on Saturday, the Wiggins brothers, along with McNaughton’s family and other close friends, attended the ninth annual James McNaughton Tribute Fundraiser, hosted by the James McNaughton Foundation at Mulcahy’s Pub in Wantagh.

Centereach's McNaughton was a NYPD officer and staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves who was killed in Iraq in 2005 at the age of 27. He was the first NYPD officer to be killed while serving in Iraq.

Fundraiser coordinator Vinny Zecca, another childhood friend of McNaughton, said the event was expected to raise $30,000 through ticket sales and donations.  The proceeds will benefit the James McNaughton Foundation, along with the Wounded Warrior Project; 9-1-1 Veterans; Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation; and PTSD Veterans Association of Northport.

The event featured live performances from The Nerds, the New York Shields Police Pipes and Drums band, USO performers and Comedy Central personality Dave Attell.

While a picture slideshow of McNaughton with family and friends played in the background, McNaughton’s parents, Bill and Michele McNaughton, of Centereach, discussed their heroic son.

“Jimmy was a good kid. He respected his elders. He didn’t drink. All of his friends have nothing but good things to say about Jimmy. I talked to him on the phone the day before he died,” said Bill McNaughton.

Added his mom, “It was hard to see him go to Iraq but he loved serving in the military. Jimmy died doing what he loved.”

The McNaughtons have two other children: Ryan, 25, and Courtney, 22. Fond memories of their brother were shared throughout the day.

“Jimmy loved playing poker,” said Eric Wiggins, 35, of Port Jefferson Station, who expected a crowd of 1,500 people over the course of the day. We go to Atlantic City every year in his memory and reminisce about him. He was a great guy.”

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