People fell silent as sirens rang through the streets of the
nation’s capital. Hundreds of police squad cars and motorcycles
escorted thousands of survivors from across the country to the
National Mall to pay tribute to their fallen police officers on May
“It’s all beginning to come back now,” said a
teary-eyed Michele McNaughton. “The motorcycles and the policeman
escorting me to my seat. It’s like reliving Jimmy’s funeral.”
“Man, you should have been there,” said Michele’s husband, Bill.
“There were over 10,000 people, including former Mayor Michael
Bloomberg and former New York Senator Hilary Clinton.”
Michele and Bill McNaughton are the parents of Staff Sgt. James D.
McNaughton, the first New York City police officer to die in Iraq
while also serving as a U.S. Army Reserve military police.
McNaughton’s name was added to the National Police Memorial and read
aloud during the 29th Annual Candle Light Vigil among the names of
394 fallen officers being added to the memorial during National
May 13, 2017 - William and Michele McNaughton from, Centereach, New
York, raise lit candles as their son's name, Staff Sgt. James D.
McNaughton, is read during the 29th Annual Candlelight Vigil on the
National Mall in Washington, D.C. McNaughton was a U.S. Army Reserve
military police who was the first New York City police officer
killed in action while deployed to Iraq, Aug. 2, 2005. Approximately
300 police officers' names were read, engraved into the National
Police Memorial. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Audrey Hayes)
“Jimmy” died Aug. 2, 2005, while stationed in Abu Ghraib, Iraq.
McNaughton’s Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Donahue (Ret.), also a retired
New York Police Officer from Monroe, New York, recalls the time
leading up to McNaughton’s death.
“I gathered about 16 to 18
civilian police officers (who were deployed) to tell them a
different kind of mission was coming up,” said Donahue.
306th Military Police Battalion was being tasked to train local
Iraqis for a new forming police department.
“They [the new
Iraqi police force] were following the rule of law, not the rule of
the dictator. It was dangerous. It was outside the [base] walls,”
said Donahue. “I remember McNaughton saying, ‘The other guys are all
husbands and fathers, so I’ve got to do it.’ He didn’t want to put
anyone in harm’s way, and that was the mission that ultimately cost
him his life.”
McNaughton was pulling guard duty when he was
hit by sniper fire.
“Making the announcement that we lost
Jimmy was very hard,” said Brig. Gen. John Hussey, commander of the
Great Lakes Training Division, Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Hussey was
McNaughton’s battalion commander in Iraq at the time. “Mike
[Donahue] was supposed to speak, but he was at a loss for words.
Well, it must have been divine intervention because the words just
flowed that night during shift change. I lead the Soldiers in
prayer, and then they had to go on and do their duty, because we
were involved in detention operations, and that mission never
“It really hurt me,” said 1st Sgt. Pat Venetek, 344
MP Company, of Middletown, Connecticut, and a New York City police
Venetek was assigned to McNaughton’s squad when
they were mobilized to Fort Meade, Maryland, right after 9/11. A
year after returning home, the two were on orders for Iraq,
something McNaughton volunteered for.
“He was that one guy
who may not have been your leader, but was known as a leader,” said
“I remember one time we were getting hit by
mortars,” recalls Donahue. “I’m running around and trying to make
sure that everyone is getting in the bunkers and there’s Jimmy. I
yelled, ‘What are you doing McNaughton? You need to get under
cover!’ and Jimmy says, ‘Not until all of my men are under cover,
Sergeant Major.’ I was mad at him at first, but then I realized he
was just doing the exact same thing I was. He was doing the right
May 13, 2017 - A member of the United States Park Police Honor Guard
presents arms during the opening ceremony of the 29th Annual
Candlelight Vigil honoring fallen police officers from around the
country on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Approximately 300
police officers' names were read, engraved into the National Police
Memorial. Among those names was Staff Sgt. James D. McNaughton, a
U.S. Army Reserve military police who was the first New York City
police officer killed in action while deployed to Iraq, Aug. 2,
2005. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Audrey Hayes)
Jimmy lived his life to serve others. After fulfilling an active
duty tour, he enlisted into the Army Reserve and went into the
police academy. His father and step mother are both retired police
officers with the New York Police Department. After McNaughton’s
death, his parents, with the help of Hussey and Donahue, submitted
an application to the New York City Police Department to have
McNaughton’s name added to the National Police Memorial Wall.
However, the application was initially denied because he wasn’t
serving as a police officer at the time of his death. But they
didn’t give up.
Having been denied once, Hussey and retired
Donahue made it their personal mission to have McNaughton’s name
included in the police memorial wall in Washington.
“(Donahue) has been at most events for Jimmy, and has worked with
his parents behind the scenes to make sure they are never
forgotten,” said Hussey.
Hussey said that he and Donahue put
a lot of personal effort to have McNaughton included in the memorial
wall. They even spoke with elected officials and asked them to get
Instead of submitting through the New York City
Police Department like the first time, they resubmitted the
application to the National Law Enforcement Memorial through the
The application was approved without any pushback.
“The ceremony was unbelievable,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Craig
Owens, the senior enlisted leader for the 200th Military Police
Command. He attended the candlelight vigil to represent McNaughton
as an Army Reserve military police and honor his sacrifice.
“The way the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund treated
the family with such dignity and respect was a humbling experience.
I hope we never have to put any more names of our Soldiers on that
wall, but if something tragic happens, it’s reassuring to know that
our country will remember them,” he said.
candlelight vigil, men, women and children passed around and lit
candles while the sky darkened around them. As officers’ names were
called out, family and friends raised their candles high over the
crowd, a metaphorical toast to their loved one’s sacrifice.
May 13, 2017 - Police officers and family members raise candles
during the 29th Annual Candlelight Vigil honoring fallen police
officers from around the country on the National Mall in Washington,
D.C., May 13, 2017. Approximately 300 police officers' names were
read, engraved into the National Police Memorial. Among those names
was Staff Sgt. James D. McNaughton, a U.S. Army Reserve military
police who was the first New York City police officer killed in
action while deployed to Iraq, Aug. 2, 2005. (U.S. Army Reserve
photo by Sgt. Audrey Hayes)
“Having Jimmy’s name put on the wall at the National
Police Memorial is epic, and it makes me proud, especially
as a New York cop,” said Venetek.
At the end of
Venetek’s tour in Iraq, he and a group of other Army Reserve
Soldiers made a pact to be to go to the academy and become
“There’s so many things that are
named after Jimmy in his honor, like dedication walls, brass
plaques, highways and buildings,” said Venetek. “There’s
even a building in Guantanamo Bay named after him. I mean, I
named my son after him, and I’m about one of eight (people)
who did it.”
There are children today who still get
to hug their fathers, and there are wives who still get to
embrace their husbands because of McNaughton, said Hussey.
He lived a life of selfless-service. Hussey and McNaughton’s
parents are glad to know that Jimmy’s name is now etched in
the National Police Memorial Wall, just as it remains etched
in the hearts of friends, comrades and family members for
years to come.
By U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Audrey Hayes
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