Seven airmen — four assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing at the Francis S. Grabeski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach — died on March 15 when an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in western Iraq, according to the Department of Defense. The cause of the crash is under investigation according to a press release issued by the DOD on March 17.
Captain Andreas B. O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches, Captain Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City, Master Sergeant Christopher J. Raguso, 39, of Commack, and Staff Sergeant Dashan J. Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson — a native of Riverhead — were killed in the crash along with Captain Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Master Sergeant William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida, and Staff Sergeant Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida.
“There are no words that fully describe the profound sorrow and immense gratitude that consume our community today,” said Congressman Lee Zeldin in a release. “There are no words to describe the emptiness this loss leaves in the heart of every Long Islander. There is, however, no shortage of ways to describe these seven service members – selfless, heroes, patriots, and everything we aspire to be as a people, as a nation, and as Americans.
“These fallen airmen are the best of who we are. They are the embodiment of what makes this country the greatest in the world – the willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our exceptional nation.”
“As a state representative who represents our Air National Guard in Westhampton and as a part of the Friends of the 106th, I have seen the contribution these soldiers make to our community, state and nation,” said New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. “Whether it is deployment to the Middle East since 9/11, search and rescue operations during the recent hurricanes, their well-chronicled heroism during the “Perfect Storm” or the multitude of other activities, near and far, that are part of their mission, the 106th makes us proud. Nothing expresses the commitment of these soldiers better than the motto of the 106th…“That others may live. We know the danger that they face. Still, when tragedy strikes, as it did this week, their loss shakes us to the core.”