Funeral held for New York City firefighter who died in Iraq

NEW YORK (AP) — An Air Force master sergeant and New York City firefighter who had faced bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan and hurricanes in Texas and the Caribbean needed to go where the action was, whether it was wrestling with his two giggling daughters or forcing his way into a burning building, a fellow firefighter told mourners at his funeral Saturday.

Christopher Raguso always came home to Long Island, alive — except this last time.

On Saturday morning, his flag-draped casket arrived atop a fire engine at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in the Suffolk County hamlet of Kings Park, with bagpipes intoning “Amazing Grace” and hundreds of white-gloved, uniformed firefighters lining the street. Some became pallbearers who carried him to the altar of the church where Raguso was married in 2009.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, attended the funeral along with city Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

Raguso, a 39-year-old lieutenant in the New York Fire Department, was killed March 15 in a military helicopter crash near the Syrian border that took the lives of seven National Guard members including three others from New York state — Capt. Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis, Tech Sgt. Dashan Briggs and Maj. Andreas O’Keeffe. They were stationed at the F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach.

After an earlier deployment, Raguso “was a totally changed man when he came back from Iraq,” his father, John Raguso, told mourners. “He mentioned something about being the tip of the spear on his next deployment, he didn’t want to be the mission support any more, no way, he wanted to be the mission.”

A fellow FDNY firefighter and friend, Lt. Christopher Gorzynski, said in his eulogy: “This man’s entire life was dedicated to service of others, and he has done exactly what they and the country have asked him to; that’s because Chris didn’t know how not to give 100 percent of himself.”

Gorzynski said Raguso realized that to be good at his job “he needed to go where the action was … whether that was home wrestling with his giggling daughters, or forcing entry into the heart of a six-story tenement on fire.”

Raguso was a 13-year veteran of the city fire department, having spent 11 years at Engine 249/Ladder 113 in Brooklyn’s Prospect-Lefferts Gardens before he was transferred to Queens.

He also was a volunteer firefighter in Commack, where he lived with his wife and two daughters.