REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio (WCMH) – When Zachary Bannister first joined the military, he was a Marine. But the young man wanted to do even more to serve his country, according to his uncle.
“He was safe not to ever be deployed, but Zach volunteered to go to the Middle East,” Rick Bannister, his uncle, said.
Bannister, who graduated from Reynoldsburg High School in 2002, left the Marines at 26 to serve in the U.S. Army Special Forces. He was deployed twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan before his final deployment in Kenya.
According to his obituary, Sergeant First Class Bannister was found dead of non-combat related injuries on October 17 while serving as a member of 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Kenya. The death is under investigation at this time.
Rick Bannister, who spoke to NBC4 at his home in Westerville, said Zach served 14 years in the military and was due home in a few weeks.
“You see these stories and you never think it’s going to happen in your family,” Rick Bannister said.
He described his nephew as the family’s “crown jewel,” loyal to his family and friends, recently married and a big fan of the Buckeyes.
“Zach also is—was—a larger-than-life character, just [a] really happy kid, young man, and so we just never really expected this kind of news about him,” Rick Bannister said.
His obituary noted that during his tours in Afghanistan, Zach Bannister was awarded three bronze stars, one with the “Valor” designation, the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal and other unit and personal decorations.
Rick Bannister said that while Zach’s family is “sad and heartbroken” about his death, they’re very proud of him.
“[He] really embraced what it meant to be in the U.S. Army and a member of Special Forces, and that’s what we want people to know,” Rick Bannister said. “He was really a remarkable young guy.”
A memorial service will be held at the Jernigan Warren Funeral Home, 545 Ramsey St., Fayetteville, NC 28301 at 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 29.
He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors at a date and time to be determined.