As Veteran’s Day approaches, the Town Crier is honored to recognize WW II Veteran Nicholas DeMaria

By Christine Galeone, Staff Reporter

“The good thing about the Poppy Days in Milford is that they use them for veterans in Milford,” World War II Veteran Nicholas DeMaria said. The Milford resident, who currently raises about $10,000 a year for veterans in need through the American Legion Auxiliary’s Poppy Program that’s held around Memorial Day and Veterans Day, added, “I go out there. I love it. I meet a lot of people.”

WWII Vet Nicholas DeMaria

Word War II Veteran Nicholas
DeMaria teaches his greatgrandsons about Poppy Days.
(Mary-Elizabeth Monroy photo)

For at least 70 years, the Milford native has sold the handcrafted red crepe paper poppies for the Sgt. John W. Powers American Legion Post 59 Auxiliary and, recently, for the VFW, where the 97-year-old is an officer. As he prepares for the Drive, he reflected on continuing his life of service, faith, and family.
Drafted into the U.S. Army at 18, he became a Heavy Mortar Crewman. He was honorably discharged on January 1, 1946 and was awarded a Good Conduct Medal, a Victory Medal, the Bronze Star, and the Asiatic Pacific Theater Campaign ribbon. Although he describes his time in WWII as “Hell,” he said that the best decoration he was awarded is the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB), which was given in gratitude for the brave sacrifices made by infantrymen.

Among his most frightening experiences was being part of the first crew to arrive during the Battle of Okinawa in the April 1, 1945 invasion of the Japanese island, which was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater of WWII. DeMaria said that sometimes when he’s watching TV, images from it will flash in his mind. “You could look up, and you couldn’t see the sky,” DeMaria recalled. “All you could see were planes. You could see the ships bombing the island.”

With three brothers who also served in WWII, DeMaria’s homecoming was bittersweet. The 1944 MIA loss of his older brother, Joseph, an Army Air Corps navigator, was devastating. “The thing that I hated the most was seeing that my mother, when I came home, her hair turned from black to grey in two years,” he said.

Then, on October 12, 1947, DeMaria married his sweetheart, Eleanor, and they started their family of four daughters – Ellie, JoAnn, Paula, and Nicole – and their son, Michael. He and Eleanor were married for 66 years before she passed away.

Throughout those years, he had a rewarding career as a Milford firefighter and spent much time serving the community and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church with wife, children, and grandchildren.

DeMaria still cherishes the most important things. When asked what has brought him joy, peace and strength, he answered, “My family.”
DeMaria, who generally attends Mass every day, is looking forward to Poppy Days. While he has delivered food to veterans who were struggling financially, he said that honoring veterans is simple. “Just come over, and say, ‘Thank you for your service,’” he advised. “Just a simple thank you; that’s enough.”