On his first day home, Islip Supervisor Tom Croci said he felt "sickened and betrayed" by the dumping scandal in his town and vowed to work diligently to assist an investigation into who was responsible.
Shortly after landing at Long Island MacArthur Airport Wednesday and still wearing his military fatigues, Croci said he couldn't comment in an official capacity on the Suffolk district attorney's investigation into allegations of illegal dumping of toxic debris in Brentwood's Roberto Clemente Park and other locations.
"Today, I'm in uniform as a Navy commander, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment while in uniform," he said. "But I will say as an American and as a resident of this town, I feel sickened and betrayed. But I promise I'll spend every day fixing this."
Croci said he would head back to Town Hall very soon. "I have to get back to the office and catch up with all the details of the administration," he said. "I'll start that first thing in the morning."
Inside the airport, Croci was greeted by a cheering throng of hundreds of family, friends, veterans and well-wishers who came to celebrate his return home from deployment in Afghanistan.
"This airport should be this full every day," Croci said in jest at a brief news conference at MacArthur. He thanked the supporters and schoolchildren who sent him boxes of candy and care packages, and he paid tribute to fallen soldiers.
"This has been a hard year for my family," he said, referring to the death of his father, Thomas Croci Sr., in March. "My dad would have really liked to have been here to see this."
Croci, 42, a U.S. Navy commander, has spent most of the past year serving overseas. He was activated last July -- 16 months into his first term as supervisor -- and deployed to the mountains of Afghanistan as an intelligence officer, according to his family.
A number of local politicians came out to greet him, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), the Islip town council and town staffers, and several state representatives. State Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who hosted the welcome ceremony, said, "The airport today was filled with very proud Long Islanders extremely grateful for his time away, who are also thrilled to have him back as the Islip Town supervisor."
Flanked by police, fire and veterans escorts, Croci then headed to the Bohemia home of his sister, Kristina Inserillo, for a family reunion and feast of home-cooked Italian food. "I couldn't be prouder," Inserillo said. "I know my dad and my mom are smiling down. They would have loved to have been here for this but I know they're here in spirit."