Jan. 27, 2010

2nd annual Big Daddy 10k helps Soldiers honor fallen comrade

Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Va.— Approximately 120 runners attended the second annual Big Daddy 10k road race at Newport News Park Jan. 23 in honor of fallen Virginia National Guard Soldier Staff Sgt. Darryl  D. Booker, who was killed when a UH-60 Blackhawk he was in crashed Jan. 20, 2007 near Baghdad.

  Big Daddy 10k

Master Sgt. Harry Newman stretches his legs before participating in the Big Daddy 10k race in Newport News, Va. Jan 23. The race was started in 2009 to raise money for a scholaship honoring Staff Sgt. Darryl D. Booker, a Virginia Guardsman who was killed in a helicopter crash in 2007 near Baghdad. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, Booker’s unit, sent 15 Soldiers to assist with the race and even provided a UH-60 Blackhawk to remind runners of the reasons behind the race. The Soldiers assisted with race registration, acted as course marshals and handed out awards after the race.

All proceeds from the race will go to a perpetual scholarship created by members of the 224th in Booker’s name.

“It was thought by our guys to go out there and raise money for a perpetual scholarship,” said Capt. Windle A. Day, Battalion aero medical physician’s assistant and race director. “Our unit did multiple fundraisers. We did a golf outing, we did fun runs and just sought donations.”

Overall, more than $30,000 were raised to start the $1,000 perpetual scholarship awarded annually. Events such as the Big Daddy 10k were established to increase the amount given.

“We’re going to continue this race so we can to increase the award that’s given to the students,” said Day. “He [Booker] was one of our guys; He’s one of our brothers, so we’re here supporting him.”

In addition to the 15 Soldiers volunteering to support the race were several Soldiers running in the race that knew Booker personally and couldn’t help but be reminded of Booker and his dedication to the unit and his fellow Soldiers.

“He was one of the nicest guys you would ever meet. He would give you the shirt off his back and he always did his job to the utmost degree,” said Chief Warrant Officer Marvin McKenney, a Blackhawk pilot for the 224th who knew Booker for five years prior to the deployment to Iraq. “Personally, for me it just helps me remember. Three days ago was the three year anniversary of his death in Iraq, so it hits me on a personal note.”

“Booker was the heart of Flight Ops [operations]. He was the person you went to anytime you needed something,” remembered Master Sgt. Harry Newman. “When any aircraft came in and you would hear Booker on the radio, it was assuring that you had someone confident who knew what they were doing.”

  Big Daddy 10k

Runners take off at the start of the Big Daddy 10k race. Approximately 120 runners showed up to run the race which raises money for a sholarship honoring a fallen memver of the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment. (Photo by Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Newman explained the reason the race was dubbed the Big Daddy 10k, “if you ever saw Darryl Booker, he’s every bit of six feet plus. He’s just a big intimidating individual, but once you talked to him and just got to know him…He’s just a big teddy bear.”

“He was just Big Daddy,” Newman said. “He took care of people; he watched the helicopters come in. He checked on everybody and made sure the records were straight. He just did it all.”

Rallying behind a fallen Soldier, the Virginia Guardsmen were able to raise money to help students pursue higher education, remember a brother-in-arms, and give local running enthusiasts an opportunity to go out and compete in a fun race while contributing to a good cause.

“It’s a good event; it brings a lot of people together,” said Newman. “It’s not necessarily a sad event; it’s good to celebrate his memory.”

“It’s just a good thing to do. It’s outdoors. It’s healthy. It’s running.”

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