Varnado Remembered As A Hero On Two Battlefields

An honor guard marched toward the hearse. When it reached the automobile, the order, "Present arms" echoed across the National Cemetery. Uniformed soldiers raised their right hands and saluted the flag draped casket.

Watching all of this take place was Varnado's former baseball teammate Dale Young.

"To know Danny, you have to know his passion," he said. "You just look him in his eyes and you saw his desire to be the best at everything he did."

Sgt. Danny Varnado was 23 years old. He had a wife, a son, and a wide assortment of friends. And they all wiped away tears as they thought about the soldier America lost on May 23, and the friend they lost forever.

"It didn't matter if it was cards or baseball or just loving his friends and his family. Whatever he did, he wanted to be number one," Young said.

His closest friend at the service may have been Joshua Cole.

"He hated when bad stuff happened to me," Cole remembered. "He hated when bad things happened to me. And now, the ultimate sacrifice is paid. And I feel that I wasn't able to be there for him. But I know he's in a better place."

On a sun baked afternoon in Biloxi, Varnado's pastor noted the scene around the National Cemetery.

"What an incredible tribute," the Rev. Lowery Anderson said.

It was ideal South Mississippi baseball weather. Fitting, because Varnado was an accomplished player at Harrison Central and Gulf Coast Community College. In fact, toward the end of the service, his wife asked teammates to place gloves next to the soldier's casket.

"To me it meant everything because watching Danny play was watching magic," remembered Young. "He made everyone a better person around him."

The military posthumously promoted the 155th soldier from specialist to Sergeant. It also awarded the Varnado family three medals in his memory -- the bronze star, the purple heart, and the Mississippi Medal for Valor.