University Honors Fallen Army Cadet with Posthumous Degree, Recognizing Dedication to Serve in Nurse Corps

University of the Incarnate Word student Joseph Banales, who was tragically killed before he could graduate, was following in his family’s footsteps in the Army Nurse Corps. The incident has left his loved ones devastated and seeking justice.

On Saturday, a graduation ceremony was held at the university, where Mother Frances Szabo and her husband, Thomas Eckel, attended to honor the memory of Szabo’s son. Little did she know that she would be walking the stage on his behalf, accepting a posthumous degree.

Banales, a dedicated student, was on the verge of completing his Bachelors of Science in Nursing earlier this year. Throughout his time at the university, he actively participated in student government and served in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). Just like his mother, he aspired to commission into the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.

Tragedy struck on April 15 when Banales was shot in Selma while driving home from a military ball. His car subsequently crashed, and responders discovered him with a gunshot wound to the head. The family believes that the incident was a result of road rage, adding another layer of sorrow to their grief.

Despite the heart-wrenching circumstances, the University of the Incarnate Word chose to honor Banales during their Commencement Ceremony, presenting his grieving mother with the posthumous degree. However, the day was bittersweet for Szabo, who expressed a mix of emotions.

“We’re very proud Joseph was a beautiful young man with a lot of life ahead of him,” Szabo said. “It’s a bittersweet day full of different emotions.”

Vice Provost Dr. Dimitri Tamalis also acknowledged Banales’ significant contributions to the university community, emphasizing his dedication to serving his country and providing care as a nurse. The university takes great pride in honoring Banales for his achievements.

Expressing her gratitude, Szabo acknowledged the love and support offered by the University of the Incarnate Word. She expressed her relief that Banales was recognized for his hard work over the last four years, while also lamenting his absence on this momentous occasion.

“He accomplished this. He worked so hard, so very hard. I wish he would be here accepting it today,” Szabo said, her words filled with a sense of longing and sorrow.

However, despite the commemoration, the case of Banales’ murder remains unsolved, leaving his family in search of justice. They are urging anyone with information about the incident to come forward and assist the police in their investigation.

Army investigators have offered a reward of $25,000, and Crime Stoppers has added an additional $5,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest. The family hopes that these incentives will encourage individuals to come forward and provide crucial details that will aid in bringing closure to their grieving hearts.

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