Wilton man killed in Iraq — Madaras, 19, first Wilton casualty in Iraq War

WILTON — A U.S. Army private from Wilton was killed in Iraq Sunday after a roadside bomb detonated near his dismounted patrol unit.

Pfc. Nicholas A. Madaras, 19, of Signal Hill Road, sustained fatal injuries from an improvised explosive device, the Department of Defense announced Tuesday, while his patrol was carrying out combat operations in Baqubah.

Madaras, who has been stationed in Baqubah since February, was part of an armored infantry division which provides personal security for Army officers in charge of that region, according to his parents, Bill and Shalini Madaras.

The Madarases, who were told the news of Nicholas' death Sunday night, said the pain of losing their oldest son is indescribable.

"I don't know if there are any words which can express how I feel," Shalini said from inside her family's Wilton home on Tuesday.
Madaras, who had come home to Wilton on military leave roughly one month ago, had recently been told his tour would be ending on Oct. 24, she said, just three days after his 20th birthday. And with a little over a month in Iraq to go, Sunday's news was the last she expected to hear, Shalini said.

"I didn't expect this," she said. "No, Nick was coming home."

When he came back to Wilton in late July, Madaras was nursing a shrapnel wound in his hand, his father said, sustained when a roadside bomb had hit the Hummer he was riding in. Protective of his family, the 2005 Wilton High School graduate had kept details about the injury and his day-to-day Army operations from his mom, his younger sister Marie, and his younger brother Chris, he said. But Madaras had disclosed a few war stories with his dad — stories which heightened Bill's worries about his oldest son's welfare in Iraq.

"When he went back I was a lot more nervous than when he first went because [I had] listened to his stories," he said. "Every day was dangerous ... But [he had] no fear. It's just their job. Its what they signed on to do, and if they're scared, they don't admit it."

Never once during his two week leave did Madaras say he didn't want to go back to Iraq, Shalini said. He had poured his heart into his tour of duty, she said, as he did with everything he pursued.

"He was a very dedicated person, and he dedicated his time to the Army," she said.

Madaras, who competed on Wilton High School's soccer, wrestling and baseball teams, also coached one of the Wilton Soccer Association's youth teams up until his Army training last summer, Shalini said.

"The kids would still ask for him," she said about the positive impact he had on the kids on the team.

Dan Cuddy Sr., a close family friend of the Madarases, said Madaras had a big heart, and was always willing to lend a helping hand.

"We miss him," said Cuddy, whose son Dan Jr. used to play soccer and coach with Madaras. "He would do anything for anybody. I can't say enough good things about him."

Madaras, who was aspiring to work in the medical field someday, always wanted to make everyone's day a little brighter, Bill said.

"He wanted to help people feel good about themselves," he said.

Ellen DeMoll, Madaras' girlfriend for the past year-and-a-half, said she recently talked to one of Madaras' friends from his Army unit, John Cerasco, who said the Wilton private helped to keep spirits upbeat abroad as well.

"He said Nick made things easier," she said. "That's the only way he could sum it up."

DeMoll said she had just talked to Madaras on the phone on Saturday, and he was already packing for his Oct. 24 departure.

"It just kills me because he was ready to come home," she said. "Right now I'm numb, I can't believe it."

According to an e-mail written from Madaras to the Wilton Villager this past April, the Army gave him the chance to grow as a person, teaching him "appreciation, respect" and "values."

"Being in the Army has made me into a person that I do not believe you can become without sacrificing yourself in a way that soldiers do," he wrote. "We give up pretty much everything to do this."

Shalini said Madaras' body is expected to be transported to Wilton sometime early next week, after making stops in Germany and Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The Madarases are planning to have a public memorial service for Nicholas at Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton, she said, but the date and time have yet to be scheduled.

Wilton First Selectman William Brennan, who visited the Madarases Monday night with his wife, requested Monday that all town flags stay at half-mast for 30 days to honor Madaras.

"Nick is gone but will never be forgotten," he told those in attendance at Tuesday night's selectmen meeting.

Governor M. Jodi Rell also ordered U.S. and state flags to remain at half staff on Tuesday, honoring Madaras and Lance Cpl. Philip A. Johnson, 19, of Enfield, who was also killed Sunday in Iraq.

Madaras is the 34 military service person or civilian with Connecticut ties to have died since March 2002 in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Associated Press and the 2,654 American casulty of the Iraq war. He is also the 89 Wiltonian to be killed in action since the French and Indian War, according to Wilton Historical Society representatives and American Legion Post 86 Commander Bing Ventres.