They volunteered to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. And now they fear their new Islandia homes might not be safe to live in and raise their children.
"It's just unbelievable the somebody knowingly put this stuff in the ground, knowing there would be families living here," said former Marine Sgt. Eric Petry.
Petry's family is among six living in a six-house development Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota says is contaminated with banned pesticides, toxic metals and petroleum-based products dumped there as the homes were being built.
The three-bedroom houses, which are arrayed around a cul-de-sac off Motor Parkway, were erected in Islandia by a local builders' organization using donated land and materials, as a way of thanking area Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for their service. The families were able to purchase the homes for $199,000 each, about half their market value.
When the six veterans took possession of their homes during a ceremony in December, they said they looked forward to helping each other transition back into civilian life. They shoveled each others' driveways, loaned each other tools and played with each others' kids.
"I think the fact that we have a military background in common and that we have been brothers and always will be, will make this a good place for us," one of the veterans, Paul Milazzo, said as the homes were being built.
But unknown to them, an 80- by 20-foot trench dug at the building site as the homes were being constructed was used as a dump site. Witnesses reported seeing trucks depositing material there. Soil samples from the property revealed "hazardous" and "acutely hazardous" levels of such contaminants as chromium, cobalt and lead, and the banned pesticides DDT and chlordane.
One resident, a Marine reservist and two-tour Iraq War veteran, said he learned of the dumping Tuesday. He had just emerged from a combat training mission held in a northern California mountain range so remote that he had been out of contact for 17 days. His family asked that his name not be used.
Like the other families, he said he is worried.
Ten children live in the homes on that cul-de-sac. Petry's wife is expecting a child in a month or so, as is at least one of the other wives.
"I'm concerned," Petry said. "My wife is expecting, she's almost due. These pesticides are banned for a reason. I'm very concerned."