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Remembering James D. McNaughton

5th Annual Event to Benefit Two Veteran Funds

James “Jimmy” D. McNaughton, a New York City Police officer and Army Staff Sergeant, was just 27 years old when he was killed in the line of duty.

McNaughton was a member of the Army Reserve’s Uniondale-based 306th Military Police Battalion who joined the New York Police Department (NYPD) in 2002, graduating from the police academy’s first graduating class following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. While assigned to the NYPD’s Transit Bureau, District 2 in Lower Manhattan, McNaughton was called for military duty in October 2002 and in November 2004 was deployed to Iraq. In May 2005, while home on a three-week leave, McNaughton proposed to his longtime girlfriend. He headed back to Iraq in June and was scheduled to return home in November 2005. Sadly, on Aug. 2, McNaughton was struck and killed by a sniper during a training mission.

Since 2006, friends and family have been holding a benefit/fundraiser in the fallen soldier’s memory and on Jan. 23, the 5th Annual Tribute to James. D. McNaughton will take place at Mulcahy’s Pub and Music Hall in Wantagh.

In the past, comedians Dave Attell, Nick DiPaolo and Colin Quinn along with local and national dignitaries such as Hillary Clinton and New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have attended this event as have professional athletes, USO members, the New York Shields Pipes and Drums Band and others.

“The amazing part of this list is that more than half of them have reached out to the McNaughton family or myself requesting to be a part of this great event,” said McNaughton’s best friend and event organizer Vinny Zecca. “This event has been truly overwhelming to both Jimmy’s family and myself. This success could not have been achieved without the incredible amount of support that we have received from the entire community, including the local and city police departments, local businesses, the United States Army and all of the performers who generously come down and entertain,” he said.

According to Zecca, last year’s event drew over 1,000 attendees and raised over $30,000. “This year, we obviously would love to shatter that number,” he said.

Proceeds from the 2010 fundraiser will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, which seeks to assist those men and women of our armed forces who have been severely injured during conflict, and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which provides financial support to families of military personnel lost in service as well as severely wounded military personnel and veterans.

With that in mind, Zecca is hoping next week’s fundraiser will be bigger and better than ever. “We are really hoping to make it extremely special and bigger then what we have done in the previous four years,” he said. “Unfortunately, in some cases as time goes by more and more people tend to forget. This is something that we are trying to prevent from happening. We want to keep Jimmy’s memory alive … I think it’s a true homage to the type of person that Jimmy was and how many lives he has touched.”

Friends since they were 8 years old, Zecca said that McNaughton was “the most loyal person” he’s ever met. “Most of the stories that have been written or told about Jimmy have spoken of how great a hero he is or how dedicated he was to this country and that he had red, white and blue running through his blood. This is all indeed very true, however, what usually goes unwritten and untold is how great of a person and friend he was to so many of us,” said Zecca. “The heroism that Jimmy showed as a police officer and a soldier for this country was equaled by his loyalty and dedication to his family and friends.  Jimmy lived for this country for as long as I can remember and he died defending the freedoms that we enjoy every day.”

The 5th Annual Tribute to James D. McNaughton will take place from 1 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23. A $20 per person cover charge includes drink specials, prizes, entertainment from Big Shot (the Billy Joel cover band), Plunge, Sal the Stockbroker (from the Howard Stern Show) and others. For more information, contact Vinny Zecca at 631-745-3813 or visit www.jimmymcnaughton.com.