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May 20, 2019 2:34 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Moriches Bay Residents Remember Local Hero Major Andreas O’Keeffe

On Saturday morning, residents of the Moriches Bay area gathered to honor Major Andreas O’Keeffe, who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq in March 2018. A magnolia tree was planted at Kaler’s Pond Park in East Moriches in memory of the local hero. COURTESY JANE KOROPSAK
May 20, 2019 2:34 PM

On a sunny, but somber Saturday morning, residents of the Moriches Bay area gathered to honor Major Andreas “Andy” O’Keeffe, who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq in March 2018. A magnolia tree was planted at Kaler’s Pond Park in East Moriches in memory of the local hero.

Maj. O’Keefe of Center Moriches, Master Sergeant Christopher Raguso of Commack, Major Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis of Long Island City, and Technical Sergent Dashan Briggs of Port Jefferson Station, all serving in the 106th Rescue Wing at the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton, were part of a seven-member team that died when the HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter they were flying crashed in western Iraq.

Maj. O’Keeffe was remembered at the ceremony by Colonel Michael Bank of the 106th as an extraordinary man.

“Andy served back-to-back deployments,” Col. Bank said. “It is fitting that a tree has been planted to honor him. This tree will one day provide shelter from the storm, be it teeming rain or blazing sun, much like Andy did during his time here serving with us. This tree will provide a place of peace and tranquility.”

Maj. O’Keeffe was an HH-60G Pave Hawk pilot and a full-time federal civilian employee and an Air Guardsman. He joined the 106th Rescue Wing in 2013 after serving as an armament systems specialist with the 113th Wing, District of Columbia Air National Guard and as an RC-26 pilot with the 174th Attack Wing, Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse.
Maj. O’Keeffe had been deployed to Iraq three times, served in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and in Texas during Hurricane Harvey.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine said during the ceremony that the town would be installing a plaque at the base of the magnolia tree.

“We here in this little town in America are here to honor a man who served his country,” he said. “His service will always be remembered.”

The ceremony, which was organized by the Chamber of Commerce of the Moriches, concluded with the solemn sounds of bagpipes and a helicopter fly-over.

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