A statue in honor of Marine Lt. Nick Lia, who was killed in Vietnam, was unveiled at Wagner College. He was remembered as a role model, the cornerstone of an undefeated college football team, a fraternity president and a friend. Mostly, he was remembered as someone taken before he even had the chance to live.
This morning, 40 years after he was killed during the Vietnam War, a larger-than-life bronze statue of Marine Lt. Nicholas Anthony Lia was unveiled at Wagner College. “Today we are celebrating a day in Wagner’s history,” said Carin Guarasci, wife of Wagner College President Richard Guarasci. “We are celebrating a hero.”
Lia, who graduated from PS 16 and Curtis High School before being named captain of the 1964 Wagner College football team, received the Purple Heart and the Gold Star after his first tour of duty. He was on his second tour of duty when he and a fellow Marine fell on a February day in 1968 in Vietnam’s Quang Tri Province.
He was 24.
More than 100 people — including college students and alumni, elected officials, veterans and friends — packed the college’s Spiro Sports Center to share their recollections of a man whose loss still cuts so deep.
Nick is the reason why I attended Wagner College,” said Dr. Eugene Mosiello, founder of the Lt. Nick Lia Foundation, a not-for-profit that supports youth academics and athletics. “Nick Lia was a man who shared his friendship, a man who led, a man who loved.”
Following the speeches, the crowd headed from the gym to a grassy patch between the football stadium and the practice field. Shortly after noon, a Wagner-green drape was lifted, revealing Lia’s statue, designed by Tottenville artist Gregory Perillo.
Dog tags hang from his neck. An American flag is clasped in his outstretched hand.
- Contributed by Mark Stein. Photo Mark Stein/Staten Island Advance