NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tributes were paid Tuesday to fallen FDNY Lt. Christopher Raguso.
Raguso was one of seven Americans, including four members of the New York Air National Guard, who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq while traveling near Qaim in the Anbar Province of Iraq last Thursday. FDNY Fire Marshal Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis, Dashan Briggs and Andreas O’Keeffe also died in that crash. They were stationed at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach.
Raguso previously deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, Texas and the Caribbean for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
He joined the FDNY in 2005.
He is survived by his wife and two young daughters.
At Engine 249/Ladder 113 in Brooklyn, Raguso’s firehouse, black and purple bunting was hung in his honor Tuesday.
Christopher’s father, John Raguso, spoke at the solemn ceremony.
“My name is Capt. John Raguso. But today, I respectfully wear the silver bars of a lieutenant, my son Chris Raguso. Chris was the consummate first responder who dedicated his life to helping others. Whether leading a squad of firefighters into a burning building, chasing a hurricane in Texas or Puerto Rico, or flying fearlessly into harm’s way to rescue a wounded soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, service to his community and his country were the unshakable building blocks during his 20-year professional career. He was born to be a member of FDNY: Of this, there is no doubt. This goal was his singular mission from the age of 19 and the fire that consumed him from within to be part of this tight-knit, blue brotherhood was bigger than anything you could ever accomplish as an individual, being part of this team. While we are totally devastated by his untimely loss as a son, a father, a husband and a community leader, we are comforted somewhat with the knowledge that he made the ultimate sacrifice, he was serving others by doing the things that he was born to do, that he was trained to do, that he loved to do and that he died to do. It is our job to keep his memory of accomplishments alive with his young girls and never, ever let them forget that their dad was a true American hero. Duty, honor and courage: These were the hallmarks of Christopher J., and, God willing, may his memory never fade.”
“We put this bunting up today as a symbol of our grief here not only in this firehouse where he served, but in every fire station in this city,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “Every member of this house, every member of this department grieves for the Raguso family today. And we will continue to be there with them not just today, not just this week, not just until he’s buried, but forever, and that’s our solemn pledge and it always will be, that we will never forget those who serve. As we honor this American hero, let us remember his great service to our city and of course to our country.”
Raguso’s tearful widow, Carmella, spoke.
“Someone sent me this quote and I think it’s exactly what Christopher was and who,” she said. “‘Isaiah 6:8: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying ‘Whom shall I send and who will go for us?’ And I said ‘Here I am, send me, so that others may live.'”
Yellow ribbons can be seen throughout Commack, Raguso’s home town.
The community is wrapping its arms around his grieving family.
Commack neighbors are painting the town yellow, wrapping ribbons around trees in his honor.
“I couldn’t imagine losing my husband and being on my own with kids. I just want her to know that she doesn’t have to know all of us but she’s not alone,” Commack mom Christina Fels said.
Fels didn’t know Raguso, but felt compelled to do something, so she began making yellow ribbons. Fels left about 200 in a box outside her home for neighbors to pick up.
“Everyone’s taking that extra time, even if they don’t have it, to put ribbons around to show that sense of love and compassion,” Fels said.
With the same goal in mind, Cherilyn Holland took to Facebook to rally neighbors to put out ribbons around town in a campaign she calls “The Yellow Ribbon Project.”
“Commack is an amazing community,” Holland said. “I literally put up one small post in the Commack Moms group about hanging 100 ribbons and we’ve had such a large influx of people.
Holland describes the Raguso family as amazing people. She hopes the ribbons show support for the family and all the men and women fighting four our country’s freedom.
Local business Commack Florist also is taking part in the effort. Employee Ron Koerner said they are donating 10 rolls of ribbon to the cause.
“To hear about this just tore us apart,” Koerner said. “He gave of himself to the community, and we want to give back.”
Commack Fire Commissioner Pat Fazio said he hopes the other fallen soldiers are being recognized in the same way.
“Keep these families, all seven of these families, in your thoughts and prayers not just today but tomorrow and the future,” Fazio said. “Right now they’re surrounded by love and support, and in the days and the months and the years to come, they need to be reminded of it.”
Fazio said Raguso was posthumously promoted to chief of the Commack Fire Department.
Those behind the Yellow Ribbon Project are planning to gather about 100 people to hang a thousand yellow ribbons across the town. She said those that want to help, or grab their own ribbon, can go to the Mayfair shopping center, Thursday at 5 p.m.