SWEETWATER, Texas (KRBC) – A veteran hero turned student has made an impact within his family and his peers, and it is spreading across the Big Country.

Comanche-native, Roy Banda, makes the trek to Texas State Technical College’s (TSTC) Sweetwater campus, all the way from Brownwood, everyday to pursue his education.

However, the two-hour drive is just one of the impressive challenges he has taken on!

Banda, begins his weekday at 4 a.m.

He explained, “I drive up here from Brownwood to Coleman to Abilene this way. I find that it’s an easier commute. I always give myself a little leeway too, that way, if I have a flat or breakdown, I have time to repair something if I need to, so I can get here on time.”

He hopes to complete his degree in diesel equipment technology, in which he began in August of 2018.

“He’s been a really good example and a lot of the students look up to him,” TSTC diesel instructor, Joe Speckels explained. “He’s an older student, obviously. Much more mature, much more responsible.”

Roy Banda spent four years overseas, in the Marine Corps. Within his four years, he served one combat tour to Iraq and one combat tour in Afghanistan. Now, he is bringing that same kind of discipline from the battle field and into the classroom. 

“He drives from Brownwood, south of Brownwood, everyday shortly after 8 o’clock, class doesn’t start until 9[a.m.]. He beats me here a lot of the mornings and I only drive from Clyde,” Speckels said.

When asked what has motivated him, without hesitation, Banda said it has been his family. He explained that making his life better will carry on into his family’s lives.

Additionally, the Marine veteran has taken on something else in the last year; becoming a new father of five foster kids! He now has six kids, which include he and his wife’s biological 14-year-old son.

“Me and my wife decided that we wanted to expand our family and we figured that it’d just be a great time to do it. We looked at adopting two boys. They fell through and then we decided, since we were licensed we might as well help while we can. Let them find us, rather than us find them,” Banda said.

His experience has been nothing short of a blessing.

“It’s been different, going from one kid at home, to now six. It has been a very big adjustment, but it’s made our hearts grow a lot, and you see where these kids come from, the stuff they’ve been through. It makes you realize how much they need,” Banda explained.

While he continues to do something that has become second nature, others around him watch in awe, as he makes strides across the Big Country, literally.

“He’s married, and he’s fostering a whole household of children. For somebody to take on that responsibility, fostering kids. It’s one thing to have your own, but it’s another thing to go out and look for kids who need a home, or who need help, and take them in and make them your own,” Banda’s instructor, Joe Speckels explained.

Speckels, who has been with TSTC for 15 years, explained that a student like Banda will go far, keeping the industry alive.

“We’ve got a huge need for diesel techs. There’s a huge shortage in the United States, especially in the surrounding area,” Speckels said. “We supply diesel graduates to trucking, heavy equipment, ag, oil field. Some of our students will go to work on automotive diesel.”

Banda has surpassed the level of expectation from his instructors and become somewhat of a mentor to his younger peers.

“Take them under a wing, under my wing and kind of help them out to show them it’s not as hard as they think it is,” he said. “Kind of motivate them.”

He said he is on track to graduate in December of 2019. He started diesel technician school in August of 2018.

“It’s never too late to pursue your career. I was working at a factory for six years, I decided to do something different,” Band said. “It’s a great field. It’s very fast opportunities. I like working on stuff. It was between this and automotive and I chose to go the diesel route.”