Every day, Nicholas Maura Sr. remembers the several hundred men who lost their lives fighting alongside him in the Korean War.
Maura, 84, of Princetown, served in the Korean War from 1952 until the war’s end, and was honored at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting for his bravery and his service to the country and the town.
On Tuesday, Maura, who has been Princetown’s highway superintendent for the past 25 years, attended the town’s monthly meeting like he always does, but was greeted with a great surprise.
As soon as the meeting started, resident Doug Thorpe called Maura up to the front of the meeting room and gave him a Service Recognition Award from the Princetown Community Volunteers, and a proclamation from the Schenectady County Legislature.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, was at the meeting to give the decorated veteran an American flag that was flown above the state Capitol in Albany.
“I’ve known Nick for 20 years,” Thorpe said. “Everyone knows Nick. If you ever called Nick to ask him for help, he jumps in and helps out no matter what.”
Thorpe is the creator and organizer of the Princetown Community Volunteers — a recently formed town organization that promotes volunteerism and community involvement.
The group has more than 50 residents of all ages, who are working on community outreach in town to help senior, veterans and other residents.
The group will hold town cleanup days April 30 and May 21, and will work to clear space for the “Wall that Heals” Vietnam memorial scheduled to come to Town Hall Aug. 25 through 28. A Veterans Recognition Day will be held Aug. 27.
Thorpe said that together with Schenectady County Sheriff Dominic Dagostino, inmates will also help on the cleanup days.“Our goals are to bring the community together and directly impact our veterans, seniors and other residents,” Thorpe said. “I have no political affiliations. I understand them, but I want us to try to see through that because at the end of the day, we’re all residents and we should help each other.
“We don’t have to agree with each other all the time, but we have to live with each other, and I want to try to build some bridges in our political system in our town and heal some wounds,” he added. “We’ve had a tremendous amount of support so far.”
Thorpe said the group plans to recognize someone in town for their service each month, and for April the group and county honored Maura for his sacrifices to the country and his work as Princetown highway superintendent.
“I couldn’t believe it, I was so surprised,” Maura said of the recognition. “I really do appreciate it. I thank the town, it was so beautiful. I thank the Lord for everything because life is beautiful.”
Maura recalled stories of his time in battle Wednesday.
During the war, then 21-year-old Maura was a corporal in the Army stationed above the 38th parallel. As a 50-caliber machine gunner, Maura siad he will never forget the day the North Koreans and Chinese killed over 200 men in his unit.
“The enemy blew the machine gun at me and blew me off the hill,” Maura recounted. “I got hit in the leg and the neck and I had been almost pronounced dead.”
Maura said he was taken to a hospital and had an out-of-body experience while being operated on.
“I was holding hands with God,” he said.
After taking a month to recover, Maura said he returned to battle. “If I had broken a bone, I would have gone home, but I didn’t.”
Maura served in the active Army until 1954, and was in the reserves for six years after his discharge.
“When something like that happens to you and you wake up in the morning, you appreciate it even if it’s not sunny out,” Maura said. “You appreciate being around and watching what’s going on in the world. A lot of people don’t have an appreciation of life. When your life is almost taken, you appreciate it while you’re living.”
Maura is a Purple Heart recipient and received several other military decorations, including the Korean Service Medal.
After the war, Maura returned to Rotterdam, his childhood home, before marrying and settling down in Princetown a few years later. He spent much of his life working construction and building houses.
Maura’s first wife died several years ago, but he has been married to his current spouse, Denise, for 13 years. She was also surprised by the recognition her husband received.
Maura said organizations like the Princetown Community Volunteers are helping to restore harmony to Princetown.
“A lot of times, people can’t do something themselves,” Maura said. “It’s nice when people join together and look out for each other. That’s what I believe in. I believe in making people smile.”
The Princetown Community Volunteers meets monthly, usually the second Monday of the month. For information or to get involved, email Doug Thorpe at [email protected] and follow Princetown Cares and Princetown Community Volunteers on Facebook.
A previous headline on this story wrongly said Nicholas Maura Sr. is the first person to receive the Princetown Community Volunteers’ Service Recognition Award; he is the second.