Good Morning
Good Morning

Supreme sacrifice weighs heavy on us all

Capt. Andreas B. O'Keeffe, of Center Moriches, Master

Capt. Andreas B. O'Keeffe, of Center Moriches, Master Sgt. Christopher J. Raguso and Staff Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs, of Port Jefferson Station, were New York Air National Guardsmen killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq on March 15. Credit: Department of Defense / Stuart F. Hughes; Commack Fire Department; New York Air National Guard

The fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is called Operation Inherent Resolve. That’s not a term that was dominating many conversations or headlines. And then seven men, including four from our area, were killed in a helicopter crash Thursday in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. Now there is news no one wants to hear.

Long Island families, their communities, the New York City Fire Department and the New York National Guard are grieving at the loss of these men who volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way out of courageous devotion to their country. They are:

  • Capt. Andreas B. O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches
  • Master Sgt. Christopher J. Raguso, 39, of Commack
  • Staff Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson Station
  • Capt. Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City

All four were serving in Iraq as members of the 106th Rescue Wing stationed at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach. The helicopter was used for search and rescue missions. The Department of Defense does not know the cause of the crash.

According to the department, 61 members of the U.S. military have been killed in Operation Inherent Resolve. In total, 6,757 Americans serving in the military have been killed in related operations against Iraq and Afghanistan in the 15 years since the bombing of Baghdad began.

The wisdom of our operations in the Middle East can be debated. The bravery and dedication of those who carry them out cannot. This loss is a wound that will not soon heal.