Wielding a sarcastic sense of humor that was honed in the Marine Corps — he often tells players he’s prone to mood swings, so their best option is to keep him happy — Madaras coaches the Falcons’ freshman offensive line, a modest evening gig. He lives for his wife and three kids back home in Urbana.
Less than an hour away from home, Maryland freshman tackle Mike Madaras sits at a table inside Gossett Team House, talking about how quickly things have moved in the past six months, how wonderful it is to have family so close by. Mike graduated from Good Counsel last spring and quickly shot up the Terrapins’ depth chart, earning his first start at left tackle against Wake Forest on Oct. 6.
Dave Madaras won’t be attending Maryland’s game at Boston College on Saturday, when the Eagles will honor wounded U.S. veterans with ceremonies, custom jerseys and a pregame flyover. It’s too far away. But if Dave were there, he would salute from the stands, above all else just another normal father beaming with pride.
Yet memories of his old family still endure, of the brothers who gave their lives alongside him. Twenty-nine years ago last Tuesday, a 22-year-old Dave Madaras was in Beirut, where he witnessed the worst that humanity had to offer.
Dave Madaras was born to a World War II paratrooper. Gabor Madaras (everyone called him Charles) always told Dave and his two older brothers to each serve two years in the military. Dave wanted to play football and party.
He was an offensive lineman at Churchill High School, one good enough to earn a look from Virginia Tech, but once the Hokies saw his academic transcript, their interest disappeared. Instead, he became one of the “Dirty Thirty” at Rockville’s Montgomery College, a rag-tag group.
He moved on to Division II Delta State in Mississippi, but bad grades soon got his scholarship revoked. One day back home, Dave and his father got into an argument. “Don’t worry about me,” Dave shouted. “I’m going into the Marines.”
At 22, he graduated from Parris Island boot camp in South Carolina in the best shape of his life, and after artillery school in Oklahoma was stationed at Camp Lejeune, a training facility in Jacksonville, N.C. Shortly after, he was called into an office. “Madaras, do you speak Lebanese?” the battery gunnery sergeant demanded. No sir, Madaras replied. “Well, you better learn. You’re assigned to Beirut.”
The Marines arrived as peacekeepers in Lebanon, which in 1983 had been devastated by a years-long civil war and further destabilized by an Israeli invasion the previous year.
The biggest soldier in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Madras performed gunnery computations, working with slide rules and figure angles, determining elevation and powder amounts.