MONTVILLE, NJ – Family, friends and firefighters stood outside the Towaco Firehouse Sunday, August 17 in eager anticipation of a Marine’s arrival. At 2:15 p.m., Lance Corporal Nicholas Mayse emerged from his police vehicle escort with a big smile and greeted each person with a hug.
An energetic buzz filled the air as everyone marched up to the third floor, where festive decorations and trays of food were set up. People sat at round tables sharing lunch and conversation, patiently waiting for a chance to chat with their hero.
Nicholas Mayse, now 22, was two years old when he moved to Montville with his family in 1994. He has two brothers – Chris, 29, an artist and teacher in Detroit, and Michael, 21, a mechanical engineering major at County College of Morris and New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Nick was born in Muncie, Indiana, but his mom, Corinne Morton-Mayse has always felt Montville was their home. “We’ve been very fortunate that the people here are like family,” she said.
Morton-Mayse used the words “amazing,” and “phenomenal,” to describe how she felt on this special day. Her son enlisted in the Marine Corps in June 2012. He was deployed to Afghanistan April 1, 2014, and scheduled to come home June 29, but a change of plans delayed his return several weeks. He finally arrived home at 3 a.m. on August 14. It was a day she had waited for with hope and pride.
In early July, Morton-Mayse had posted a question on a local social media group, asking where to get a banner made for her Marine son’s homecoming. Within minutes, responses were pouring in – not just answers, but support and gratitude for her son’s service to his country, and an offer to provide an honorary homecoming escort to the firehouse where he has served as a volunteer since 2010.
Mayse’s new homecoming banner is now hung on the message board outside the Towaco Firehouse on Rt. 202, over the familiar words that have been there all summer: “RETURN HOME SAFELY LANCE CPL. NICHOLAS MAYSE.”
“I’m happy to be home,” LCpl Mayse said, taking a few minutes to speak with TAP. Appearing relaxed in jeans and plaid shirt, he smiled as he described his experience being stationed in Afghanistan with 38-40 Marines and a company of 200 Georgian soldiers, living among the villagers in the third world.
“It’s a whole different world,” he said. “Most of them live in mud huts or big tents, but a couple of houses have solar panels or generators to pump water out of the ground. The water was always warm there, since the temperature was about 120 degrees,” he said, noting that cold water was one of the things he missed about home.
He said he often gave snacks and water to local children, who felt right at home with the military presence, not realizing its purpose.
“The kids don’t really know what’s going on over there, but the village elders, on the other hand, are a little standoffish,” Mayse said.
As a gunner, his day began at 5:30 a.m. He would rise, go to the motor pool to get his truck, clean his ammo, mount it in the truck, check his flares and smoke grenades, and put on a harness. A gunner, driver, vehicle commander, and radio operator comprised Mayse’s team, which conducted patrols with the understanding that lives could be on the line.
“It’s either my life, my fellow Marines’ lives, or their lives,” Mayse said, focusing on the ethics of territories bludgeoned by war. His priorities were clear. “I want to get everybody home to their families.”
Mayse said his experience has taught him a lot about how the [Marine] Corps works, specifically in a combat zone, which, he said, feels more laid back than at home, because of the stress, although it might seem the opposite would be true.
There’s an old Indian motto Mayse has always drawn inspiration from: “Live your life so the fear of death may never enter your heart.” Mayse changed the wording to, “Live your life so that fear may never enter your heart,” and had it tattooed on his back.
During his deployment, his friends and family were constantly updating him on Facebook and inquiring about his health. Mayse said he was grateful for this, and the many boxes of food that arrived from home with goodies like Capri Sun, canned tuna, Pop Tarts, and applesauce, which the Marines would all share with each other.
“It lets you know that people back home are thinking about you,” Mayse said with a smile.
Mayse recalled that he was six years old when he told his mom he wanted to join the Marines, but it was during 9/11 that he knew for sure. He was aware of the danger, but knew that if he passed, at least he would have been doing something he loved.
“I know I’m just one guy, but I’m trying to make a difference,” he said.
His father, Eric Mayse, feels his son made the right choice.
“I can’t think of a kid better suited than this. He has a mindset, physically and mentally. He was built to be a Marine – always disciplined. Now he seems a little more mature,” Eric Mayse said, adding with a laugh, “He complains about us leaving the lights on!”
Regarding the possibility of another deployment, Mayse and his parents may not see completely eye-to-eye. Eric Mayse said he is “kind of upset, but proud,” that his son has expressed interest in being deployed again when he’s already served in Afghanistan and could focus instead on his career as an electrical technician. He admitted being apprehensive ever since his son joined the Marines with such commitment and passion.
Eric Mayse hopes to set his children on the right path, knowing that he can offer advice, but that they will make their own decisions. He spoke the words, “If you fall, I’ll be there to help you up, but I won’t prop you up,” with the strength and love only a parent can truly understand.
Sitting at the table with Eric Mayse were friends of the family, Police Chief Rudy Appelmann, his daughter, Amanda, niece, Emma, and Retired Police Lt. Dave Johnson. “We are very proud of him and what he’s done to help our country,” Johnson said, speaking about Nick on behalf of everyone.
People throughout the room echoed his sentiments, including Patrick Johnson, who played lacrosse with Nick Mayse since fifth grade. “I’m glad he’s back from Afghanistan,” Johnson said about Nick. “It was the easiest thing to make him smile.”
The Mayse family’s closest friends, Eddie, Christine and Sarah O’Connor, and Catherine Carroll, have known each other for many years. The O’Connors said they were proud and worried about Nick during his deployment, and shipped him tuna and pop tarts through the military to make sure he was okay. They said he hasn’t changed at all.
“Nick’s been the same since he was a little kid – always smiling; always happy,” said Sarah, who used to babysit for Nick and his little brother, Mike.
“He was a maniac,” joked Eddie.
The O’Connors generously set up and paid for the homecoming party – a gift for which the Mayse family is extremely grateful.
LCpl Mayse will remain in Montville until August 31, and then head back to Camp Lejeune Marine Base in N.C., to receive his next assignment. His immediate plan is to save money. In the future, he said he hopes to become a New York City Firefighter.