Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Christopher J. Raguso, MSgt., USAF (Fallen)March 14, 1979 – March 15, 2018
Lt. Christopher Joseph Raguso, FDNY, 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 was the fire that consumed him from within…to be a part of this tight-knit brotherhood of blue that was bigger than anything he could accomplish as an individual.
While we are totally devastated by his untimely loss as a son, father, husband and community leader, we are comforted somewhat in the knowledge that when 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 ultimately, he gave his life to do.
It is our job to keep his memory of accomplishments alive with his young girls and let them never forget that their dad loved them beyond words and was a true American hero. Duty, honor and courage…these were the hallmarks of Christopher-J, and may his memory never fade.
Long Island widow remembers hero husband killed in Iraq for Memorial Day
By Melkorka Licea May 27, 2018 | 1:37am
Every night, 5-year-old Eva climbs into her parents’ bed and curls up in her dad’s side.
“The last thing he told her was to keep his spot warm, and she hasn’t left it,” said her mom, Carmela Raguso.
Two months after that conversation with her dad, who called her while serving with the New York Air National Guard in Iraq, Eva still does her nightly ritual.
“She tells me every once in a while, ‘Daddy slept with me,’ or ‘Daddy hugged me,’ or ‘Daddy visited me today,’?” Carmela said.
Eva’s dad, FDNY Lt. Christopher Raguso, was killed March 15, when the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter he was riding in struck a power line and went down along the Syrian border.
He had just turned 39 years old.
Now, as their Commack, LI, community gathers for their first Memorial Day without Raguso in more than a decade, Carmela is speaking publicly for the first time about their life together — and her will to keep going without him.
“I just want the world to know how amazing he was,” Carmela said through tears. “I owe it to him to be a strong wife and tell his story.”
They met in 2006, when the strapping, 6-foot-2 firefighter, who volunteered for his hometown firehouse while working for the FDNY, gave a safety lecture at the school where Carmela taught.
Their first date was a joyride around town in a firetruck.
“He told me he was ‘kind of a big deal,’?” she recalled. “And I thought he was the cutest thing I’d ever seen in my whole life.”
They rounded out their rendezvous over lunch at a Chili’s.
Christopher Raguso with wife Carmela and two daughters Eva and Mila.
“I had this test where if I could pick off the guy’s plate and he’s cool with it, I knew it was a good thing,” Carmela told The Post. “I stole a french fry from him, and he didn’t flinch. I was sold.”
A decade of marriage and two little girls later, Carmela blew her last kiss to Christopher as they chatted over Skype.
He was on his sixth and final deployment as a master sergeant with Long Island’s 106th Rescue Wing when the Air Force chopper went down at around 6:45 p.m. near al Qaim in western Anbar Province, killing all seven aboard.
The helicopter, used for combat search-and-rescue missions, was on a routine flight and likely flying close to the ground to avoid showing up on enemy radar.
Christopher was on board as a flight engineer, responsible for performing aircraft inspections and maintenance.
Carmela and his mother had begged him not to go to Iraq again. He had promised this would be his last trip abroad.
“I said, ‘I’ve shared you for long enough. I just want you all to myself now,’” Carmela recalled, tearing up. “I had finally convinced him. He said, ‘It’s just going to be me and you after this, Carm.’”
Fire Marshal Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis, an Air Force major, who graduated with honors from NYU and Stanford University Law School, was also killed, as well as two other Long Islanders — Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson Station, and Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches.
Carmela, 36, spoke to Christopher for the last time the morning before the crash.
“I had told him that our neighbor was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer,” said Carmela, who beat the disease herself after a double mastectomy. “And he told me, ‘You know what, Carm? Every moment together is precious.’”
Their chat ended with a promise to talk again later — a promise he couldn’t keep.
“He had told me, ‘We’re doing something really cool tonight. I love you. I’ll call you when I get back,’” she said.
Later that day, Carmela finished up her bedtime routine with their daughters, Eva and Mila, 6, when a Facebook post sent her heart plummeting.
“Someone had posted, ‘Pray for our guys on the HH-60, there was a crash in Western Iraq,’?” she recalled. “As soon as I read it, I was on the floor.”
In a panic, Carmela asked her parents to come over. “I knew something was wrong,” she said. “Two minutes after they got here, three suits knocked on my door.”
She fell to the ground in agony.
“They didn’t even need to say anything,” she said. “All I could do was scream and cry.”
For several days, Eva camped out in her father’s closet.
“She wouldn’t leave,” Carmela said. “Finally, her uncles convinced her to come out.”
But his death wasn’t in vain.
“He died a hero,” Carmela said. “Chris died for something that he really believed in, and he loved every second of it.”
The veteran firefighter — a born-and-raised Long Islander with dozens of tattoos and salt-and-pepper hair — was a “natural-born rescuer, saver and helper,” Carmela said. “He was the best version of himself when he was helping others.”
The funeral for Christopher RagusoT.J. Lambui/LiHotShots
His funeral was held at the church where they had married.
Christopher Raguso, nicknamed “Goose,” spent 11 of his 13 years with the FDNY at Engine 249/Ladder 113 in Flatbush and two at Battalion 50 in Queens after he was promoted to lieutenant in 2016.
After his death, members of the Navy SEALs — Raguso’s heroes — sent his father a letter, recounting how Raguso’s work saved them countless times, said Carmela, a speech pathologist in the North Shore school district.
Whenever their team on the Pave Hawk helped rescue special-operations personnel, they’d give them a coin that said, “You’ve been saved by Pedro,” the craft’s nickname, Carmela said.
“I’m hoping that someone one day comes and shows me that coin,” she said. “It would give me hope and peace.”
As a firefighter, one of Christopher’s rescues sticks out in Carmela’s memory.
Days after the birth of their first child, he responded to a 911 call in Commack. A baby wasn’t breathing after her father accidentally rolled onto her in his sleep.
“Chris was the first one to give her mouth-to-mouth,” she recalled. “After, he called me crying saying it was the hardest thing he ever had to do. Thank God he was there to help her.”
He didn’t just help save civilians, he also helped his wife through one of the most difficult times in her life.
From 2016 to 2017, he tended to her while she battled ductal carcinoma cancer, underwent chemotherapy and recovered from the double mastectomy.
“It was a beautiful thing to have our girls see Daddy taking such good care of Mommy,” she said.
In the midst of her unthinkable loss, Carmela prefers to dwell on the good rather than the bad.
“He was such a character and was always smiling,” she said, calling him a “ham” and “jokester” “obsessed with spicy foods.”
“He would dance with the girls to classical music and pretend they were princesses and he was the prince,” she said. “Then he’d chase us all around the kitchen island giggling.”He also loved to hug and snuggle anyone and everyone.
While Christopher was on tour in the Horn of Africa in 2014, he met Prince Harry, who was also serving in the military, and couldn’t help but embrace him.
“When he came home I was like, ‘So what did you say to him?’ And he was like, ‘I didn’t say anything, I just gave him a big bear hug and picked him up off the ground,’” Carmela recalled with a big grin. “I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, what did he do?’ And he goes, ‘He just laughed.’ The whole thing didn’t faze him.”
For his birthday, Eva and Mila had baked him a cake. He pretended to blow out the candles over Skype.
“He came with us to Applebee’s for dinner that night, too,” Carmela said, motioning to her phone.
Christopher reveled in being a dad. On the day Carmela broke the news he was going to be a father, he couldn’t stop laughing.
“He was up on the roof cleaning the rafters, and I ran up the ladder to tell him,” she said. “I was like, ‘So how do you feel about being a dad?’ And he looked at me with this huge grin, laid down on the roof on his back and just said ‘Wow!’”
Today, little Eva wants to be just like her dad.
“She’s my mini-Chris,” said Carmela. “She wants to be a firefighter or in the Air Force when she grows up.”
This Memorial Day, Mila and Eva will march in the Commack parade to commemorate their father’s legacy.
Eva will don a camouflage uniform, carry an American flag and walk with the firefighters, while Mila will join her Girl Scout troop.
After the day wraps up, Carmela plans to pour herself a cocktail and reminisce.
“He was meant for something so much more than just to be my husband,” she said. “He wasn’t just here for me, he was here for everyone. And he made this world a better place.”
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