Saturday, February 03, 2007

Darryl Booker laid to rest

Nearly 1,000 family members, friends, military comrades and church members gave thanks yesterday for Staff Sgt. Darryl D. Booker's life.

"I didn't know the impact he had made on so many people," Booker's mother, Maria Loney, said after the memorial service at Mount Gilead Full Gospel International Ministries in Chesterfield County.

A soldier in the Virginia Army National Guard, the 37-year-old Booker was killed Jan. 20 in a helicopter crash in Iraq.

"You know, we hurt, we hurt," his mother said. "We're going to miss him, but we know that Darryl's going to be OK."

Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman Jr., the Virginia National Guard's adjutant general, offered "our deepest sympathy and our deepest respect" to the fallen soldier's family.

In the sanctuary lobby, Booker's military decorations, including the Bronze Star, were displayed next to the condolence books.

Outside the church, a large American flag suspended between the raised ladders of two Chesterfield County Fire and Emergency Medical Services firetrucks.

Booker's wife, Jeanne Booker, said she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness from members of the public she didn't know.

And when she saw the flag arch at the church, she said she was so moved "that made me a little weaker, but I had to be strong for my children. That was just so awesome."

Booker left a daughter, Derica Booker of Arlington, Texas, and four stepchildren.

A Manchester High School graduate, Booker was a military air-traffic controller. In his civilian life, he was a full-time employee of the National Guard's Army Aviation Support Facility at Sandston.

Booker joined the Virginia Army Guard in September 1987. He had served in Iraq and Bosnia before his latest deployment to the Middle East.

He was among 12 soldiers who died when the UH-60 Black Hawk in which they were flying went down northeast of Baghdad, military officials said.

"He gave his life fighting for something he believed in," Minister Kenneth Mitchell, the church's assistant pastor, said in his eulogy. "We have to come to gether as a nation to support those who fight for us."

Booker, of Midlothian, came from a military family, with cousins in the uniforms of the Army, Navy and Air Force attending the memorial.

Donnell McLean of Midlothian was in the church's men's ministry with Booker. "He was a wonderful man," McLean recalled, "compassionate, very sincere."

Letters of condolence for Booker's death came from as far as the Surry County Board of Supervisors to the chief of staff of the U.S. Army.

"He was always giving and never taking," said Lt. Col. Robert Tamplett, who served in the Guard with Booker. "He was a gift to us from God."

Another Virginia Army National Guard soldier, Col. Paul M. Kelly, 45, of Stafford County, also died in the crash that killed Booker.

Booker will be buried with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.

In an e-mail to a church elder two days before he died, Booker wrote from Iraq that, "God wants me to increase my faith. . . . I have so many people depending on me that I can't afford to fail."

From the Dispatch

Related Link:
Darryl D. Booker killed in helicopter crash