Bomb claims Carson soldier in Baqouba

Pfc. Nicholas Madaras, 19, of Wilton, Conn., was “reborn” in the Army, his father says, developing goals and plans he didn’t have before.

By TOM ROEDER THE GAZETTE

A soldier in Fort Carson’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team was killed Sunday in a bombing in Iraq, the Army said Tuesday.

Pfc. Nicholas A. Madaras, 19, of Wilton, Conn., was killed when a bomb detonated near him while he was patrolling on foot in Baqouba, 35 miles north of Baghdad. Madaras is the 19th soldier from the brigade to die in Iraq since 2003. Fort Carson has lost 168 soldiers in the war.

Madaras’ father, William, said his son gravitated to the Army after losing his way in high school. A determined soccer player, referee and coach, Madaras wanted to spend more time on the playing field than in the classroom and at 18 didn’t have a plan for the future.

On his own, he went to a recruiter and enlisted last year.

William Madaras said when his son came home on leave in July, he was a new man with goals and plans. For the first time, he saw his son as a man.

“He was reborn,” William Madaras said.

In Wilton, a town of 17,000 that’s about an hour outside Hartford, Nicholas Madaras was remembered as an artist on the soccer field who was as focused on honing his own skills as he was on passing them on to others.

When he was in middle school, Madaras started coaching youth squads.

“They said he didn’t yell as much as the fathers who were coaching,” said William Madaras, letting loose a bittersweet chuckle. “He would go on the field and teach them instead.”

Madaras didn’t talk much about combat he saw in Iraq with his battalion. He told his family, though, he admired the bravery of the Iraqis and marveled at their soccer skills.

“He said they could do more with a tin can than his varsity team could do with a soccer ball,” William Madaras said.

Heartbroken over his son’s death, the elder Madaras said he understands why the oldest of his three children put himself in harm’s way.

“He had to prove himself to himself,” he said. “The Army gave him a chance to do that.”

The bombing that killed Madaras ended a two-month period in which no Fort Carson soldiers died in Iraq.

While nearly 5,000 Fort Carson soldiers have served in Iraq during the summer, the post’s last death there was June 29. The lull in casualties came as soldiers in the brigade saw their mission change from front-line fighting to a support role backing up Iraqi army units that are now in the lead in battles near Baqouba.

Leaders have also attributed the brigade’s comparatively low casualty rate to a change in enemy tactics. Insurgents around Baqouba in recent months have avoided direct confrontations with U.S. troops, instead turning their weapons on civilians in a bid to incite a civil war, commanders have said.

Bombs like the one involved in the most recent incident, though, have taken a toll on Fort Carson troops. Since the war started, 66 soldiers have died in bombings compared with 49 killed by enemy fire.