Constituent Spotlight: Brayden Banske
Jul 1, 2013
Calumet City Student Heads to West Point
Brayden Banske has dreamed of two things in his young life—becoming a soldier and piloting helicopters.
The Calumet City resident is taking a huge step toward realizing his dreams as he enters West Point Military Academy as a freshman cadet on July 1.
“When I was a kid, I thought it would be really cool to join the Army,” Banske said. “And I’ve always longed to fly since I was little. Some people want to fly jets, but helicopters are intriguing to me. After West Point, I want to fly helicopters and be part of an airborne division.”
Congresswoman Robin Kelly nominated Banske to the Academy in May. Candidates for admission must receive a nomination from a representative or senator.
Banske’s career choice has been greatly influenced by his family, teachers and neighbors. He is the second member of his family to earn a Congressional nomination to one of the nation’s top military schools. His older sister Courtney is a 2012 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and currently serves as an officer aboard the USS DeWert, which will soon leave Florida for anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Africa.
“My sister definitely inspired me—and so did my grandfathers,” he said. “Both of them were in the Army.”
Another role model was a young neighbor named Rick Penkala, an Army officer currently stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“I always looked up to him when I was growing up,” Banske said.
A graduate of Bishop Noll Institute just outside of Calumet City, Banske was active in football, swimming and track, winning 11 varsity letters. He was captain of both the swim and track teams. He led the swim team to four straight conference championships and set five conference records. He also helped lead his track team to a conference championship by finishing first in the 400 meter dash and first as part of the 4x400 relay team.
Assistant track coach Sam Watts describes Banske as a serious young man who readily accepted a leadership role on the team.
“He was one of my favorite students and athletes,” Watts said. “When I implemented challenging workouts to prepare the team for competition at the next level, Brayden jumped right in without hesitation. He understands what’s expected of him. He never complained about anything I asked him to do for the team.”
Brayden was not only a strong athlete, but an academic achiever as well. He was a member of the National Honor Society, the National Chinese Honor Society and Student Ambassadors. Classmates trusted him to serve as treasurer of the Student Council for four years.
He was awarded the Cook County Sheriff’s Medal of Valor Award for community service. He also received a commendation from Governor Patrick Quinn for his participation in underage cigarette stings with the Calumet City Police.
“I would walk in and try to buy a pack of cigarettes to see if they’d ask for ID. It was pretty fun. I knew the cops I worked with.”
Lifelong family friend Bill Galgan remembers Brayden talking about joining the military even as a young child.
“He’s focused and very driven in whatever he does,” Galgan said.
Brayden’s twin sister, Breanna, will head to Florida State College in the fall to study Chinese and International Business.
“It will be the first time we’ll be living away from each other in 18 years. But she can come up and meet some of my cadet friends. I’m sure she’ll enjoy meeting a bunch of military men in uniform,” he said with a smile.
His brother Trevor is studying to be a paramedic and currently works part-time as a firefighter/EMT for the Village of Burnham Fire Department.
Brayden will study systems engineering while at West Point. He also intends to try out for the football team.