By Char McCargo Bah
Every time Aaron Banks sees the military or hears about it, he thinks about his own family that has served in the various branches of the armed forces. His father and uncles served in World War II; his brother, nieces and great nephew also served in the military at various times.
In 1943, Roscoe Banks Sr. and his two brothers enlisted in the military. Roscoe enlisted in the U.S. Army in Richmond, Virginia on Oct. 30, 1943. He stayed in the Army for two years and was discharged on Feb. 26, 1946. He returned to his parents’ house at 610 N. Columbus St. and to his part-time job as a cook at Dixie Pig Barbeque Restaurant on Powhatan Street. While at Dixie Pig, he started working for his brother, Orlando Banks, a successful auto business owner. Before long, he began working full-time for his brother and part-time for the restaurant.
In 1952, Roscoe married Rita Mae Samuels, a native Alexandrian. They had five children: Melva Johnson, Roscoe Banks Jr., Aaron Banks, Tanya Hawkins and Bonita Mickles. Roscoe and his wife raised their children at 913 N. Henry St., and their son, Roscoe Jr., graduated from T.C. Williams High School, now Alexandria City High School, in 1972.
Following his father’s footsteps, Roscoe Jr. joined the military in the fall of 1973, enlisting in the United States Marine Corps and eventually rising to the rank of Gunnery Sergeant. After his basic training, he married Juanita Elizabeth Vaughn on Dec. 29, 1973.
He spent 22 years in the marines, based at Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan from 1973 to 1975; the marine barracks in Bermuda from 1975 to 1978; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina from 1978 to 1982; Quantico, Virginia from 1982 to 1986; Port Hueneme in Oxnard, California from 1986 to 1989 and finally Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California from 1989 to 1993. He also spent time in the Mediterranean and in Turkey, Israel, Jordan and Germany.
In 1994, Roscoe Jr. was diagnosed with cancer. He retired from the marines with 22 years of service, and used his G.I. Bill to enroll in culinary school. Upon graduating, he found a job working in a restaurant and, after gaining some experience, he was promoted to chef. His health began to deteriorate rapidly and although he survived cancer for 27 years, it eventually claimed his life in 2020. He was buried at Quantico.
Roscoe Jr. had four children: Bernice Smith, now deceased, Annetta Banks, April Jackson and Jasmine Mitchell. Just like her father, April enlisted in the marines after graduating from T.C. Williams. She retired as a Gunnery Sergeant in 2020 with 20 years of service. Her sister, Jasmine, is in the Army Reserves, and April’s son, Trey Batts, enlisted in the marines in 2020.
Other members of the Banks family served their country too. Roscoe Sr.’s two brothers, Algie H. Banks Jr and Marshall L. Banks, were in the military. Algie enlisted in the Navy in May 1943 and was discharged in April of 1946; Marshall enlisted in the Navy in October 1943, around the same time Roscoe Sr. enlisted in the Army, and was discharged in March 1946.
Unlike his brother, Roscoe Jr., Aaron L. Banks did not join the military. Aaron graduated from T.C. Williams in 1973 and for 15 years, he coached young people in basketball and football in Alexandria. He married Judith Renee Allen in 1991 and had two children, Omeara Banks and Aaron Banks Jr.
After working on several jobs, Aaron got a job with a glass company. For the next 20 years, he continued working for different glass companies until he established his own business, ASG Glass Company, Inc., in Maryland. He has owned this company for 27 years and has been in the glass business for 47 years. With a family legacy of military service and entrepreneurship, Aaron is now known as the businessperson in his family.
As our country approaches Veterans Day, Aaron will be remembering his Army veteran father, his Marine brother and his two Navy uncles who are no longer here. Aaron will spend time with his Marine and Army Reserve nieces and talk to his Marine great nephew who might share his experience in the military with the family on that day.
We salute all veterans for the service they rendered and the sacrifice they made to protect our country.
The writer is a published author, columnist, freelance writer, independent historian, genealogist and a Living Legend of Alexandria. She maintains two blogs, which can be found here and here.