Pictured is WW II Veteran Nicholas DeMaria and daughter Jo-Ann.
By Christine Galeone
World War II Heavy Mortar Crewman veteran Nicholas DeMaria of Milford has led an honorable life. For bravely serving our country, he was awarded a Good Conduct Medal, Victory Medal, Bronze Star, Asiatic Pacific Theater Campaign Ribbon, and Combat Infantryman Badge. For being a good dad to his five kids, Ellie, Jo Ann, Paula, Nicole and Michael, and a good husband to his beloved wife, Eleanor, for 66 years until her passing, he earned the love and respect of his family. And for serving his community as a firefighter, his church as a volunteer and fellow veterans by raising thousands during Poppy Days since around 1946, he’s received the gratitude of many.
On Sunday June 19, while our country celebrates Juneteenth and Father’s Day, DeMaria will be the recipient of a different type of appreciation. Because of Thanks to Yanks and Honor Flight New England, he and his eldest daughter, Jo- Ann (DeMaria) Morgan, will board an Honor Flight bound for Washington, D.C. The day-long trip for around 25 veterans will include visits to war memorials.
After exceeding a fundraising goal for Thanks to Yanks, the Milford nonprofit that supports military members, veterans and their families, volunteer and former Board member Maggie McIsaac was asked by Michael Shain – the nonprofit’s founder and director – how she would like to see the extra funds used. She suggested honoring a veteran through Honor Flight New England, a nonprofit that transports mostly WW II and Korea War veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit war memorials. Shain was happy to oblige.
Shain reached out to Morgan to ask if she knew any Milford WW II veterans who could travel. Morgan, who’s the chairperson of the Milford Veterans Council, told him about her dad. And Shain agreed that he was an excellent candidate.
“It worked out perfectly,” Shain remarked. He added, “It’s a marvelous thing. It just says ‘respect…we care about you; thank you for your service.’”
DeMaria didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation. “I was thrilled – very, very happy,” DeMaria said. After mentioning that he’d like to shake the President’s hand, he added, “I haven’t been to Washington D.C. in a long, long time, so it’ll be nice to see it again.”
Morgan, who will accompany her dad with Thanks to Yanks providing her ticket and Honor Flight New England providing her dad’s, is equally thrilled. “I’m ecstatic about this; I think it’s probably one of the highest honors that could be given to our veterans,” she shared. Noting that her two young grandsons will attend the celebratory send-off on the morning of the flight, she added that her parents raised her and her siblings to be grateful for the sacrifices veterans made “so that we can live in a free and safe country.”
While DeMaria’s looking forward to taking the Honor Flight, visiting kids at Brookside School for a Memorial Day celebration, and selling crepe paper poppies to give back to fellow veterans, Shain is glad that the community could give back to DeMaria. “We’re just grateful that the people of Milford have been very generous,” he said. “It’s just a privilege to be able to support those who serve.”