The father of the first Marylander killed in action in the Persian Gulf war today urged that allied forces be allowed to finish their destruction of Iraq's military machine so that it can never threaten its neighbors again.
"I just don't want my son's death to be in vain," said Paul Randazzo, of Glen Burnie. "I want them to carry out what he was there for, and to finish it so they don't take any more of my sons."
The second youngest of Randazzo's five sons, Sgt. Ronald M. Randazzo, 24, was killed Wednesday along with two other soldiers when their anti-aircraft vehicle was hit by Iraqi fire on the Saudi-Iraq border, the Pentagon said yesterday.
An Army chaplain went to Ronald Randazzo's home in the 100 block of Ralph Road yesterday to break the news to his mother, Leona Randazzo, and the rest of his family.
"Can you believe? There isn't supposed to be a ground war, yet my son is killed," the soldier's father said today, his voice choked with emotion.
Ronald Randazzo, who lived with his mother, was single and a 1985 graduate of Glen Burnie High School. He joined the Army on April 6, 1987. he had been in the gulf since August and had been due for discharge last fall so that he could study law enforcement at Anne Arundel Community College. He hoped in time to join the FBI. But his enlistment was extended because of the war.
He leaves his parents, a sister, Alice Brass, and four brothers, George, Kenneth, Michael and Paul 3rd, all of whom have been in the military services. His sister is married to a Marine Corps corporal serving in the gulf.
"I just hope they'll allow our president to do what he knows is best, and forget all these negotiations with this idiot [Saddam Hussein], and take him out and reduce that nation . . . so that particular region will never rise up and hit us again," the elder Randazzo said today, fighting back tears after a sleepless night at his oldest son George's house in Glen Burnie.
In his letters and telephones calls from the gulf, Ronald Randazzo admitted his fear, his father said.
"He was always in fear, knowing he was on the front line," Paul Randazzo said. "He expressed it on several occasions. . . . I told him that's good, because when you get complacent, you're in pTC trouble. . . . But he loved what he was doing, and he believed in what he was doing."
"He and I had some lengthy conversations as to what he felt about the situation over there," Randazzo said. "He said, 'Dad, if we don't stop him [Saddam] here, we'll have to stop him someplace further down the line.' "
There were many things Ronald Randazzo said he wanted to tell his family about what he had seen, but was not at liberty to discuss.
"'The guy's a tyrant, not only to the outside world, but to his own people,' " the elder Randazzo quoted his son as saying. "He said, 'If you knew what was happening here, and what he [Saddam] has done, you'd be able to understand why I gotta stay here.' "
"I agree with what this president and Congress has done is a just course," the elder Randazzo said, "even though the price we pay this high. . . . This thing we hold very dear to us, which is freedom and the American way of life, has to be fought for."
Paul Randazzo said his son's death had left his wife "distraught," and caused their daughter, Alice Brass, who is seven months pregnant, to be hospitalized. "We thought she was going to have the baby," the elder Randazzo said. "It's taking quite a toll." He said her condition had stabilized.
Her husband, John Brass, is serving on the U.S.S. Shreveport in the Persian Gulf.
"I want them to bring my son-in-law home safe to his wife and child," he said. "These boys are fighting for a just cause, and these politicians had better let 'em finish it. I'm not angry now, but if they don't let 'em finish it, then I'll be angry."
"Just make sure you let everybody know that this kid believed in everything he lived for," Paul Randazzo said. He and his wife continue to believe in it.
Paul Randazzo described his son as "pure."
"I can't ever remember a time anybody asked him to do something that he wasn't there, you know?" he said. The young man "loved to camp, loved to hunt, loved to fish. He just liked the outdoors, and . . . he loved life, he really did."
In addition to Ronald Randazzo, two other soldiers were killed and seven were injured in Wednesday's attack, which occurred at about 1 p.m. Saudi time or 5 a.m. EST, said Capt. Barbara Goodno, an Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon.
The Randazzo family said he was on a reconnaissance mission at the time, but Goodno said she couldn't confirm that.
An infantryman assigned to the 5th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division, based in Fort Hood Texas, Randazzo was assigned as a supervisor on a Vulcan Air Defense System, a tank-like anti-aircraft weapon with a 20mm, six-barrel gun.
"The Vulcan was passing through a berm [a small hill] on the border of Saudi Arabia and Iraq," said Goodno. "The Vulcan turret was struck by a round."
One other Marylander has been killed in the gulf, in a non-combat crash of a medical helicopter.
Army Staff Sgt. Garland Hailey, 37, formerly of Baltimore, died Jan. 19 in Saudi Arabia. The chopper was carrying two patients, a medic and three crew members.
Air Force 1st Lt. Thomas Bland Jr., 26, of Gaithersburg is listed as missing in action in the gulf region.
News of Ronald Randazzo's death brought stunned friends and relatives to his family's Glen Burnie home yesterday.
Dawn Klekotka, 28, hadn't been back to the old neighborhood in 9 years, but she was there last night to offer her sympathies, carnations and roses to Ronald Randazzo's family.
"I've known him all my life," she said. "I was real stunned."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.