A Soldier's Legacy In Iraq

Iraqi boy plays soccer CBS

All over the quiet town of Wilton there are monuments to the memory of Nick Madaras.

"This is Nick's garden," said Bill Madaras, Nick's father. "There's something flowering in here all the year long."

But his greatest legacy could be the hope he brought to the children of Iraq, reports CBS News' Russ Mitchell.

One year tomorrow, Pvt. Madaras was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. At Wilton High School, he played and coached soccer. Just before he died, he wrote to his father asking him to send a couple of soccer balls for the local Iraqi kids, who were kicking around tin cans in the street.

"Nick called me one day and was telling me about the kids and said they could do things with tin cans his high school teammates couldn't," said Bill Madaras.

Bill Madaras never had a chance to send the balls before his son's death, Mitchell reports. But Ken Dartley, a local member of the American Legion, heard about Nick's request.

"I thought, 'Well why shouldn't that continue whether he's here or not,'" said Ken Dartley. "His spirit ought to be continued."

Dartley arranged for a makeshift net to be placed in the town center, where people could donate soccer balls. More than a thousand have been collected.

"The balls just came from young kids, from little old ladies, from older gentlemen," said Dartley.

"Can't believe it," said Bill Madaras when he saw how many balls had been collected. "Nick would never have believed it. He would have been absolutely amazed. It was great."

"He (Nick) really wanted to inspire people, make people feel better about themselves," said Bill Madaras. "That's why he loved coaching so much. The kids always used to say they want to be with Nick because he wasn't one of those screaming fathers."

Dartley knew how important soccer is to the Iraqis. The street celebrations after the country's recent victory in the Asia Cup say it all.

"If one of these kids gets one of these soccer balls and decides that he doesn't want to be a suicide bomber - if it stops that, then the whole thing is worth it," said Dartley.

Each ball that is sent to Iraq has Nick's name on it. In each box is his biography, which a soldier reads to the Iraqi kids so they know something of his life.

"He never asked for any recognition or anything special for himself," said Madaras, referring to his son. "He just wanted to walk away thinking he'd contributed something to somebody else."

Bill Madaras know that his son's memory will live on in the young of Iraq every time another box of soccer balls arrives from America.
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