Family says a final farewell

By John Nickerson
Staff Writer

September 13, 2006

WILTON -- When Iraqi kids came around Nicholas Madaras' Humvee, the Army private from Wilton would search for something to give them -- candy or something to show he cared, Army Pfc. John Cevasco said.

"He wanted to let them know he was there to keep them safe," Cevasco said in his eulogy for Madaras before 650 people, including Gov. M. Jodi Rell, at Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church in Wilton yesterday.

Cevasco, who called Madaras his best friend, served in Iraq with Madaras and was home on leave when Madaras, 19, was killed by a roadside bomb Sept. 3.

Madaras, a 2005 Wilton High School graduate, drove a Humvee as part of a security detachment assigned to his battalion commander and was based in Baqubah, about 40 miles northeast of Baghdad.

On Sept. 3, a roadside bomb exploded during Madaras' daytime patrol just outside Baqubah. While soldiers were working to recover a vehicle damaged in the strike, Madaras was out of his truck, keeping oncoming traffic from getting near the soldiers, said Army Capt. Brad Caton, adjutant for the 1-68 Combined Arms Battalion to which Madaras was assigned.

While he was securing the site, a second bomb hidden in the median exploded, killing Madaras, Caton said via e-mail from Iraq. No one else was injured in the blast.

Yesterday in the church, lifelong friend Tom Thresher remembered Madaras as someone who wouldn't cut corners, no matter how appealing the prospect.

For Nick, "the easiest thing was not the right thing to do," Thresher said.

Thresher said Nick was a comforting companion, who often encouraged his friends to cheer up. Thresher said Madaras told him many times to relax and not to dwell on whatever was keeping him down.

At the end of the 80-minute service, the funeral motorcade, led by police officers from at least eight nearby communities, passed underneath a large American flag held over Route 7 by a Wilton Fire Department ladder truck.

During the graveside service with full military honors at Hillside Cemetery in Wilton, William and Shalini Madaras were presented with their son's flag and medals by Brig. Gen. Nicholas Justice. Near the end of the service, Shalini Madaras struggled as she placed a red rose on her son's coffin. Other family members then placed roses on the coffin before it was lowered into the grave.

Madaras had been awarded medals, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

After the ceremony, Justice said he told the Madaras family that Nicholas made a difference in the Army and they should be proud of him.

Madaras was the 34th person with Connecticut ties to have died in Iraq or Afghanistan since March 2002.

Last week, Rell ordered U.S. and state flags to remain at half-staff until Madaras and Enfield Marine Lance Cpl. Philip Johnson, who also was killed in Iraq on Sept. 3, were buried. Johnson's funeral is scheduled for Friday.

Copyright © 2006, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.