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Parents, Charles & Julia Banko
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6/1944 – 9/1945
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Charlie Banko was born in Keasbey, New Jersey, in 1926. His Hungarian-American parents, Charles and Julia (Kopenash) Banko, raised four sons at 21 Dahl Avenue in Woodbridge Township.
When the war began, the older Banko boys went into the service. The oldest, Louis, joined the Navy in 1943. Charlie, the next in line, received his draft notice at the age of eighteen, and was summoned to Parris Island to become a Marine. He was whisked through boot camp and infantry school at Camp Lejeune; within six months he was on his way to the Pacific with the 30th Replacement Draft.
Private Banko was assigned to Baker Company, 24th Marines on February 24, 1945 – five days into the battle of Iwo Jima. Although a stranger to his company and to combat, Banko managed better than many replacements: he fought on the front lines of Iwo for a full week before he was hit and evacuated. He recovered at Naval Hospital #128 in Hawaii, but his wounds proved too serious to allow his return to active duty.
Banko was discharged for disability in September, 1945; he wore a Purple Heart back home to Keasbey, and has carried Japanese shrapnel in his hip and leg for the next seven decades. Despite his injuries, he immediately went to work, at one time holding as many as three simultaneous jobs – and finding time for the Keasbey “Rangers” in his spare time.
Eventually, he settled into a career with the Woodbridge Township Police Department, and spent thirty-six years in uniform before his mandatory retirement at the age of 65. He remained on as the department’s Archives Curator until 2007. In his busy life, Banko also served as chief of the town’s fire department, was active with the Hungarian Reformed Church, and raised four sons with his wife Sandra.
Charles Banko passed away on the morning of February 25, 2015 – seventy years and one day after joining Company B. His obituary is available online here, but his brother officer Kevin Cuffe remembered Officer Banko in this eulogy:
I served with Officer Charles Banko, gentleman, with the Woodbridge Township Police for 35 years. He was a mentor and police officer’s police officer and always a hard-charger Marine. He will be sorely missed by his wife and family and by many, many citizens of Woodbridge and all of us who served with him. Semper Fi, Charlie. Be welcomed into the arms of your comrades guarding the gates of Heaven. Never forgotten.
Thanks to Ginny Otte for the additional information about Charles Banko.