Thousands of mourners gathered at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Kings Park on Long Island this morning for the funeral for Master Sgt. Christopher J. Raguso, a member of the 106th Air Rescue Wing and one of seven U.S. service members killed in a March 15 helicopter crash in Iraq.
Raguso, 39, who was also a lieutenant with the FDNY, lived in Commack with his wife and two daughters, ages 5 and 6. A wake was held Thursday and Friday at the Commack Fire Department, where he had served as a volunteer firefighter since 2000.
Hundreds of city firefighters and representatives of other fire departments, along with members of the military and civilians, were among those gathered outside the church late Saturday morning.
Scott Melnik, 46, of Kings Park, didn’t know Raguso but he and his family stood quietly near the FDNY color guard as men and women in uniform streamed past the church.
“He put his life on the line for us,” Melnik said. “The least we can do is show him respect.”
Son Jack Melnik, 16, said the turnout at the funeral “shows how this community can come together to honor this person as a man, a soldier, an American, a husband and a father.”
FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro, FDNY Lt. Christopher Gorzynski — who served with Raguso at Ladder Company 113 in Flatbush, Brooklyn — and Raguso’s father, John, are scheduled to deliver the eulogies.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, were among those on hand to pay their respects; de Blasio was not scheduled to speak.
Raguso joined the FDNY in 2005 and was stationed at Division 13 in Richmond Hill, Queens. Raguso was honored six times for bravery and lifesaving actions, the FDNY said.
The funeral will cap a somber eight days for the FDNY that began March 24 with services for Keith Young, 53, a Wantagh resident who died of a 9/11-related cancer that stemmed from his weeks of work at Ground Zero.
On Tuesday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan delivered the homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan for Lt. Michael Davidson of Floral Park, who died March 22 while fighting a blaze in a Harlem building being used as a movie set.
On Thursday, FDNY firefighter and Air National Guard Capt. Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City, Queens, who died in the helicopter crash with Raguso, was honored at a celebration of life in Manhattan. The Guard unit the two men served with is based in Westhampton Beach.
Two other members of the 106th also died in the crash of the Pave Hawk helicopter near the Syrian border. Tech. Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson Station, was buried Thursday at Calverton National Cemetery after a funeral at the Westhampton Beach firehouse.
A funeral for Capt. Andreas B. O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches, will be held in Tampa, Florida, on Friday at Incarnation Catholic Church, said his father, Shan O’Keeffe.