Derek R Banks
Newport News, Virginia
November 14, 2007
Died Nov. 14 in San Antonio of wounds suffered Oct. 25 in Baghdad, Iraq, when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device.
|Sgt. Derek R. Banks
Friday, November 16 2007
Daily Press -- Sgt. Derek R. Banks was voted "most popular" during his senior year in 2001 at Bethel High School, where he played on the football and basketball teams.
"He's one of those guys that you notice," said Ernest Bethel, who was in Banks' class in high school and managed the basketball team. "He was a people person. He wanted to get people involved in what he was doing. I'm devastated for the family. I'll keep them in my prayers."
Banks, 24, died Wednesday as a result of injuries from a roadside bomb on Oct. 25 in Baghdad, Iraq. He was flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and later to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Banks was a combat engineer of the Virginia Army National Guard's 237th Engineer Company. The roadside explosive also killed Spc. David E. Lambert of Cedar Bluff in western Virginia and injured three other soldiers from Hampton Roads: Sgt. James "Andy" Corbett of Poquoson; and Pfc. Eric T. Holt and Spc. Joshua G. Primm, both of Williamsburg.
Jacinda Garabito, who graduated a year after Banks at Bethel High School, said the two were like brother and sister. Banks lived with Garabito's family for about a year in high school and he was a role model for her two younger brothers. He was also the male figure around the house because Garabito said her mom was a single parent.
"All Derek ever wanted was to be loved," Garabito said, adding that he found love when he married his wife, Sheena.
Banks was a small forward on Bethel's basketball team, said his coach, Craig A. Brehon, who is dean of boys at Bethel High School.
Banks was 6 feet 2 inches tall when he was playing in high school, and had "a tremendous vertical leap," Brehon said, adding that Banks was an easygoing kid with an infectious smile. He was a "strong, solid athlete."
"He had an incredible first step, and he loved to dunk the ball," said Bethel.
Banks was a bigger football star than a basketball star, said Philip Ward, who knew Banks since middle school and played on both teams with him.
Banks was a wide receiver who helped Bethel tie up the Peninsula District game against Phoebus in 2000 by coming through with a two-point conversion. Phoebus came back to win the game, but that's when Phoebus was on top, Ward said.
Banks and Ward kept up a friendship when Ward was attending college in Richmond and Banks was at Virginia State University in Petersburg. They'd get together on weekends, and also to watch the TV show "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." Banks liked the show so much he majored in criminal justice in college, Ward said.
One of the reasons Banks joined the Guard was to help pay for college.
Ward described Banks as a positive guy with a talent for freestyle rapping, especially if he had help from someone doing beat box. Ward drove Banks to Richmond about three months ago when Banks flew to Wisconsin for more military training before doing his second tour of duty. Brehon said he learned of Banks' death from Banks younger sister. Banks has two sisters at Bethel High School, he said.
He also has a 2-year-old son, Derek Jr., or "D.J."
Banks had served in the Guard for five years and seven months. He is the third member of the Virginia Army National Guard to die in war this year, and the seventh since the start of the global war on terror began following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Banks was posthumously promoted from the third enlisted rank of specialist to the fifth rank of sergeant.
"The Virginia National Guard feels the loss of this courageous soldier," said Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman Jr., the adjutant general of Virginia.
"We ask that the citizens of the commonwealth keep the friends and family of Sgt. Banks in their thoughts and prayers while they grieve the loss of this fine Virginian. The Virginia National Guard will continue to support and stand by those affected by this tragic loss."
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