The Pentagon has identified the seven service members who were killed when an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in western Iraq on Thursday and they include four people from New York. Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches and Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson Station were among the New York Air National Guard members who died.
Two others who were also part of the 106th Rescue Wing, Capt. Christopher Zanetis, of Queens and Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso of Commack, were members of the Fire Department of New York.
Also killed in the crash that took place near the border with Syria were Capt. Mark K. Weber, 29, who was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron at Georgia’s Moody Air Force Base and Master Sgt. William R. Posch, 36, and Staff Sgt. Carl P. Enis, 31, from the Air Force Reserve’s 308th Rescue Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.
The deaths of the two firefighters from New York “underscore the significant role of military reservists and veterans among first responders,” notes the Washington Post. The paper explains:
A U.S. official familiar with Air Force rescue operations said intense teamwork and the occasional adrenaline shock feel similar to combat operations, making firefighting and paramedic careers a natural draw for some veterans.
The official also said small-unit camaraderie and the unified sense of mission are attractive for veterans who find themselves unmoored from purpose in their post-military life. The firehouse, operated according to a hierarchy of experience, with a constant routine and uniform sense of urgency, can appear somewhat similar to a fire base in combat or a naval ship at sea.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff on Monday to honor the four New York National Guard members who were killed in the helicopter crash. “On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to the friends and family of these courageous New York National Guard members,” Governor Cuomo said. “We join their loved ones and fellow service members in honoring the sacrifice they have made, so that others may live free in New York and across the entire nation.”
Officials said the crash that took place in the town of Qaim doesn’t appear to be the result of enemy fire but it is under investigation. “This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women face every day in service of our nations. We are thinking of the loved ones of these service members today,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga, director of operations in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.