Manchester High School roads named for fallen Soldiers

Family members, friends and fellow Soldiers of fallen warriors Staff Sgt. Darryl Booker and Sgt. Dane Cauthorn come together Oct. 20, 2017, for a memorial road naming ceremony at Manchester High School in Midlothian, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. – At Manchester High School in Midlothian, Virginia, a pair of streets were named for two fallen Soldiers in a ceremony held Oct. 20, 2017. The Soldiers, Staff. Sgt. Darryl D. Booker of the Virginia National Guard and Sgt. Forrest Dane Cauthorn of the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division, both graduated from Manchester High. The two were separated by 15 years in age, but both lost their lives in support of their nation in separate enemy attacks in Iraq more than 10 years ago.

Now, the streets leading to and away from the high school’s football field bear the names “Darryl Booker Way” and “Dane Cauthorn Way.”

Steve Elswick, the Matoaca District Supervisor, said he hoped the young people attending the high school for generations to come would see the signs and be inspired to learn more about the men who attended their school and gave their lives for their nation.

Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, speaks at a ceremony honoring fallen warriors Staff Sgt. Darryl Booker and Sgt. Dane Cauthorn Oct. 20, 2017, at Manchester High School in Midlothian, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

“Whether it is names etched in granite, photos on a wall or names on a street sign, what matters most is that we remember and that we honor those who paid the ultimate price to defend our nation,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia.

Booker died Jan. 20, 2007, along with fellow Virginia National Guard Soldier Col. Paul Kelly and 10 other Soldiers, when the Black Hawk helicopter they were traveling in was shot down north of Baghdad. He was assigned to the 29th Infantry Division at the time of his death and served much of career in the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment. He was 37-years-old at the time of his death.

Cauthorn was killed later that same year, on April 5, 2007, from wounds suffered after his unit encountered enemy forces using small arms and grenades. He was just 22-years-old and was, at that point, the 16th Soldier from his battalion killed on that deployment.

“Their willingness to volunteer and serve was only the beginning of the story,” said Rob Thompson of the Matoaca District School Board. “These two men served heroically and ultimately sacrificed their lives for their fellow Soldiers and for their country. We thank them and their families for that brave sacrifice.”

The event was organized and planned by Chesterfield County. Planning started early in 2017. Jeanne Booker, Darryl’s widow, said she’d seen streets named for other Soldiers and was researching how she could have her husband honored in the same way.

“They reached out to me and said they wanted to honor him,” she said, explaining that Chesterfield County sent out letters to both the Booker and Cauthorn families, expressing the county’s desire to name the streets after the two Soldiers.

“I am honored, I am truly grateful that this has happened,” Jeanne said.

After opening remarks, the posting of the colors by the Manchester High School JROTC, the singing of the national anthem by the Manchester High School Chamber Ensemble, the Pledge of Allegiance and an invocation, a series of speakers spoke about the two men, about their experiences at the high school, in the military and in their personal lives.

“If you knew Darryl, you know what a kind-hearted soul he was,” said retired Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Owens, who served with Booker in Bosnia and Iraq and graduated from Manchester High in the same class.

Family members, friends and fellow Soldiers of fallen warriors Staff Sgt. Darryl Booker and Sgt. Dane Cauthorn come together Oct. 20, 2017, for a memorial road naming ceremony at Manchester High School in Midlothian, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

Owens said one his favorite memories of Booker was when they were at the airport, home on leave from a deployment. He went up to Booker and asked him how he was getting home and Booker said he wasn’t sure, but that he wanted to surprise his then-girlfriend, Jeanne, and that he was planning to propose. Owens said he and his wife could take him home.

“So, we drove him to the house to surprise her,” he said. “And we heard a loud scream, at like 11 o’clock at night, so we knew he was home safe and she was very surprised.”

Col. Neal Edmonds, the Virginia National Guard’s human resources officer, talked about a four-month deployment to South America both he and Booker were a part of. They were part of a humanitarian mission, “deep in the southern Bolivian wilderness,” where the Soldiers, Marines and Airmen stationed there lived in a tent camp surrounded by wire.

“It was a pretty miserable place,” Edmonds said. He explained that there wasn’t much to do when the troops stationed there weren’t conducting their missions, but that there was a loudspeaker system, usually used to make camp-wide announcements. “Darryl decided to channel his inner disc jockey and asked for permission to use that loudspeaker system to run his own radio show at night and to play tunes for the rest of us.”

His radio persona in Bolivia was “Big Daddy,” a nickname he would carry for the rest of his life.

“We still talk about those nights with Big Daddy spinning tunes and telling really bad jokes,” Edmonds said.

Booker’s best friend, Rob Plummer, said that he had a special way of taking care of people and, echoing the sentiments of others at the event, commended his kind heart. Plummer moved to Chesterfield from Richmond in high school, and that’s when he met Booker.

“On my first day of school, I walked into the cafeteria and I just kind of stood there like a deer in the headlights. I didn’t know anyone in the school,” Plummer said. “Darryl walked up to me, introduced himself, shook my hand and invited me to come sit with him and his friends at their table.”

And that was it, Plummer said. The two were fast friends from there, with each serving as best man in the other’s weddings.

Family members of fallen warriors Staff Sgt. Darryl Booker and Sgt. Dane Cauthorn come together Oct. 20, 2017, for a memorial road naming ceremony at Manchester High School in Midlothian, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

“While separated by 15 years in age, both Staff Sgt. Booker and Sgt. Cauthorn attended Manchester High School, but shared more than just being a Lancer,” Williams said. “They both were driven by a sense of duty and a desire to make a difference and defend the ideals of freedom that we all hold dear.”

When Cauthorn graduated high school his dad, Billy, gave him a motorcycle to ride across the country so he could figure out what he wanted to do, but he already had a plan. He gave up a scholarship to Virginia Tech and joined the Army instead.

“One of the things we always taught in the ROTC is the importance of service – service to community, service to state, service to country,” said retired Col. Timothy Gilbert, former JROTC instructor at Manchester High School, who taught Cauthorn during his time in JROTC. “And like everything else, Dane took that lesson right to heart.”

All those who talked of Cauthorn commended his good humor and his Soldier skills. His friend, Greg Ormandy, who he served with in Iraq, said, “Dane always took soldiering seriously.” He said his friend was known for making situations more enjoyable, even the really miserable ones, that he was authentic and unique, that he always had your back and he was a great friend.

“These traits and more were on full display April 5, 2007, as Forrest Dane Cauthorn rushed toward the enemy position in support of another squad being ambushed,” Ormandy said. “I’m certain he told at least one joke along the way.”

Following the speakers and the retiring of the colors, the crowd gathered around the new sign post as Jeanne and Billy unveiled the new signs for Darryl Booker Way and Dane Cauthorn Way.

“A street sign is a small token, but a lasting one,” said Lou Lassiter, Deputy County Administrator for Chesterfield County and master of ceremonies for the event. “For generations to come, may the signs we unveil today be a subtle and constant reminder of the immense pride we have for two of our own local heroes from Manchester High School.”

A newly-unveiled sign post stands at Manchester High School in Chesterfield, Virginia, after a street naming ceremony honoring two of Virginia’s fallen Soldiers. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

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