‘Just a perfect day’ to honor Marine veteran
The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. November 3, 2022
WILKES-BARRE (Tribune News Service) — Brenda Banaszek climbed into the Veterans Affairs shuttle vehicle after it pulled up to the curb on North Franklin Street and greeted her father.
“Hi, Daddy,” she said.
Retired Marine Corps Captain Henry Banaszek was on his first trip out of the local medical facility in over two years, since COVID-19 restrictions were instituted. Banaszek was out to finally see his Hometown Heroes banner that hangs proudly on North Franklin Street.
Banaszek served honorably for 22 years, inspiring other members of his family to follow in his footsteps.
“He has a ton of nephews that are retired from the Marine Corps,” nephew, Jack Babuscak explained noting that his uncle was certainly the inspiration for his own decision to serve, retiring from the service at the rank of gunnery sergeant.
But it wasn’t enough for Banaszek to simply get out to see his banner.
Police Chief Joseph Coffay provided support, ensuring a section of North Franklin Street was blocked off to traffic. The city’s fire department draped a giant flag as the backdrop, and Brown delivered a mayoral proclamation to Banaszek.
Brenda Banaszek told Brown after his remarks that she had recently learned how her father earned his Bronze Star for valor. It was Korea in 1952. His unit was taking heavy fire and artillery bombing and air support was far off. Banaszek offered himself up, crawling on his belly through the war zone, disabling upwards of 60 landmines in the process.
Banaszek lives with dementia, but his daughter remembers a man who she said, “was fair, honest. He would help anybody. A very compassionate man for being a combat veteran. He loved his family. He loved the kids he worked with.”
Those kids she refers to are the students he taught, led, and coached during 23 years with the Wilkes-Barre Area School District. Banazek was a teacher, an assistant football coach at Coughlin High School, and home and school visitor and a vice principal at Meyers High School.
Before enlisting in the Marine Corps and later commissioning, the Miners Mills native served in the Pennsylvania National Guard with the 109th Field Artillery Battalion in Kingston from 1947 to 1950.
Banaszek had about a dozen family members and an equal number of friends and supporters on hand, all of whom he had not been able to see throughout the long COVID-19 restrictions.
“I’m so proud to be daddy’s little girl,” Brenda said of her father, reflecting on how he made it as many of his children’s events as he could, how she would volunteer with him for Toys for Tots. “He is such an honorable man and I am so proud of him every day and I remind him every day. I thank him for my blue eyes ... I had the greatest parents ... He’s still my hero.”
Babuscak noted, “He was such a great role model for family and for students,”
And his daughter noted as the afternoon faded to memory: “It was just a perfect day.”
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