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Police fill stands to cheer, support son of late officer

From left, retired NYPD officers Rob and Vinni

From left, retired NYPD officers Rob and Vinni Pastroski of Commack, and their son Eric, 12, cheer on the North Babylon High School Bulldogs' Gregory Sesso (#74), during their game against Newfield in North Babylon on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Gregory Sesso's father, Larry Sesso, a former Sayville fire chief who worked full time as a Port Authority police officer at Kennedy Airport, passed away suddenly at age 40 in August. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Shortly after the start of Saturday's 9 a.m. junior varsity football game at North Babylon High School, players looked up to see a blitz -- the crowd in the stands suddenly doubled.

Almost all of the 45 or so newcomers were police, there to cheer on a player most had never met: 14-year-old Gregory Sesso, whose police-officer father died of a heart attack on Aug. 22 at age 40.

"I don't know him, but he's family -- the police family, the blue family," said Lenny Caputo, 43, a retired NYPD officer who lives in Elmont.

The officers came from at least four states, some rising before dawn to meet in the parking lot before the game. Many donned "Team Sesso" T-shirts with "74" -- Gregory's number and the one his late father, Larry Sesso, wore when the Port Authority police officer and Sayville volunteer firefighter played football at Sayville High School.

A posting on a law-enforcement Facebook page about Gregory by the teenager's mom and Sesso's ex-wife, NYPD Officer Theresa Callahan, led to Saturday's gathering.

The private Facebook page is for the nonprofit Brothers Before Others, which supports police officers and their families through fundraisers after deaths and fires and during illness. They also send flowers to honor every U.S. cop killed on the job.

Michael Burke, the group's founder and a retired NYPD officer now living in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, said the turnout of officers shows Gregory "he's not alone."

Burke and the others cheered wildly when Gregory, a linebacker, made his first tackle in the first quarter.

"Yeah, Gregory!" some cheered as signs with "Go Sesso 74" were raised.

Rob Pastroski, 50, a retired NYPD officer who lives in Commack, said Saturday's turnout was unsurprising.

"It doesn't matter who you are or which department you work for," he said. "We all do the same job and go through the same emotions. We're here for each other. I know if my family needed help, everybody would come by and help us."

Gregory said after the game that police officers' support meant a lot to him.

"It helps me, because it shows I have a lot of people backing me up," Gregory said. "I'm grateful for that."


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