Daryl Booker called his father in Surry County just before Christmas last year and told him not to worry.
Booker, an Army National Guardsman who grew up in Richmond, had been in Iraq since October.
He'd survived a couple close calls, Earnest Hardy Sr. said.
"I figured if he was there in harm's way and was telling me not to worry, then I probably shouldn't," Hardy said. But "You can't help but to worry."
Booker, a 38-year-old father of five, was one of 12 troops killed Saturday when the Black Hawk helicopter they were flying in crashed just outside of Baghdad.
While military officials have said the crash is still under investigation, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday that Iraqi sources said it had been shot down.
A witness claimed to have seen the ground fire that brought down the helicopter, and an insurgent group claimed responsibility via the Internet.
Soldiers notified Booker's mother, who lives in Richmond, on Saturday, Hardy said.
"She tried calling me seven times. When I called her back, all she could say was, 'We lost Daryl.' "
Troops from Fort Eustis notified Hardy officially of his son's death on Monday. He then had the grim task of spreading the news among the dozens of cousins and aunts and uncles living in Smithfield and Surry County.
Booker joined the Army when he turned 18. After several years on active duty, Hardy said, Booker became a member of the Virginia National Guard and was attached to a unit near Richmond.
"In the last five or six years, he went on a bunch of tours," Hardy said. "He was a member of a peace-keeping force."
Booker was proud to be a soldier, Hardy said.
"He made a choice and made the best of his choice."
Booker is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Funeral services will be held in Richmond.
Staff researcher Tracy Sorensen and the Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.