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Fallen NYPD soldier James McNaughton remembered at fundraiser (Includes interview)

On August 2, 2005, McNaughton was the first NYPD officer that was killed in Iraq. He passed away at the age of 27, while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. “It seems like yesterday, all the time,” said his father, Mr. Bill McNaughton. “It’s just nice to see all the men and women come out. It’s nice, and we are here for Jimmy. His way is still helping people. Even though he is not here with us anymore. He is still helping. That’s the main thing!”

“I actually got to talk to him the day before he got shot,” recalled Mr. McNaughton. “It was a nice day, and the next day the army is on my front lawn. That is something that is burning in your head for the rest of your life.”

Mr. Bill McNaughton revealed that they do a golf outing in honor of Jimmy each July. “It’s over at Harbor Links, and it always sells out,” he said. “Mulcahy’s has been here right from the beginning. I didn’t even realize that Jimmy used to come here. I just want to thank everybody! To me, this is the status of the man, the character of the man.”

His father further noted that Jimmy enjoyed both the NYPD and the army, so they were a natural fit for him. “Jimmy loved the commitment to serve,” Mr. McNaughton said. “He graduated high school in 1996, and three days later, he was gone! A five year commitment in the army. He’s had a uniform on since he was 18 years old. We do scholarships in his name at Centereach High School. That is coming up in May.”

For the past 13 years at Mulcahy’s in Wantagh, the fundraiser for Army Staff Sgt. James McNaughton has always been one of the most well-attended events, where Long Islanders pay tribute to their fallen American hero. “The turnout has been really good. It has been surprising,” said Vincent Zecca. “The first year was 300 to 400 people here, and we thought that was a lot. Over 13 years, it has gotten bigger and bigger. It speaks volumes of Jimmy.”

Vincent “Vinny” Zecca remarked, “I grew up with Jimmy. I’ve known him since third grade, and we stayed close for over 30 years. Jimmy was really the type of guy that every one of us would have done something for him. He would have done anything for us. He would have given us the shirt off his back if he could. What he did for the country, the city and the army, as a police officer, is what everybody sees outside of our core group of friends. We saw all that when Jimmy was an eight-year-old kid.

Zecca continued, “Jimmy would always defend us and he was the first to lend a hand. It is important to us to keep his memory alive. It is not a somber day for us. It is a day of celebration of Jimmy’s life. It’s more of a party. The way he would have wanted it!”

To learn more about the life and legacy of James D. McNaughton, check out his official website.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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