Family, friends and military pay their respects to Wilton native killed in Iraq

Friday, September 15, 2006

By JEREMY SOULLIERE (Wilton Villager)

WILTON — An outpouring of family, friends and military and safety personnel spilled into the aisles at Our Lady of Fatima Church on Tuesday morning to pay their respects to U.S. Army Private Nicholas Madaras, a Wilton resident who was killed in Baqubah, Iraq on Sept. 3 after a roadside bomb detonated near his patrol unit.

Pfc. Madaras, 19, of Signal Hill Road, was later buried with full military honors at Wilton's Hillside Cemetery on Ridgefield Road, where U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Nicholas Justice awarded the 2005 Wilton High School graduate with a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, an Army Commendation Medal and an Army Good Conduct medal for his dedicated service to his country.

Two of Madaras' close friends, Pfc. John Cevasco and Wilton resident Tom Thresher, delivered eulogies at the Catholic funeral mass, both pointing to Madaras' tremendous lust for life, his genuine friendship, and his ability to calm others in life's most hectic moments.

"He was what I consider my best friend," said Cevasco, who has been serving in Iraq alongside Madaras in the Army's 168th Combined Arms Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. "Being there with a comrade like Nick made things so much easier to deal with. He would say, 'Just chill — relax.' He was always so calm and confident ... We talked about (the fact that) you only live once, so take advantage of the time you have. That's how Nick lived."
Despite his calming ways, Thresher said Madaras knew how to turn on the intensity when he, and others, needed it.

"In the 79th minute he'd be behind you ... kicking it into fifth gear," he said, using one of the two friends' past high school soccer games as an example.

Cevasco said Madaras, who would give candy to the local Iraqi kids, "loved and honored" the Iraqis he was helping to defend, and was proud to serve his country.

"He wanted them to know he was there to keep them safe," he said. "He knew he was there to do the right thing, and he never stopped trying to do it."

After the service, which was also attended by Gov. M. Jodi Rell, U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, State Sen. Judith Freedman, and state Reps. Toni Boucher and John Hetherington, a Wilton police vehicle and roughly 20 police officers on motorcycles led the funeral procession up Danbury Road, and down Ridgefield Road to the cemetery.

The mournful drone of the bagpipes hung in the air as Madaras' casket, draped in the American flag, was lifted from the hearse to the burial site. After a moment of silence, Army National Guardsmen gave Madaras a four-gun salute, ringing three shots in the clear September sky. As National Guardsmen folded the flag to give to Madaras' family, the brassy sound of "Taps" filled the air.

Justice then announced the meaning of some of the Army medals Madaras had been awarded, saying the Bronze Star recognizes a soldier's dedicated service in combat, while a Purple Heart is given to those who were wounded or killed fighting for their country.

"He will be forever remembered," he said.

Madaras, who is survived by his father William, his mother Shalini, and his younger siblings Marie and Chris, had also received a National Defense Service Medal, an Iraq Campaign Medal and a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal during his tour in Iraq, which began in February.

His unit, which was stationed in Baqubah roughly 40 miles northwest of Baghdad, provided personal security for Army officers in charge of that region, according to his parents.

"Private First Class Nicholas Madaras paid the ultimate sacrifice, and right now our thoughts and prayers are with the family," National Guard Lt. John Whitford said after the funeral ceremony.