Before his unit left for the Persian Gulf last summer, Ron Randazzo warned his family in Glen Burnie that he wouldn't come back.
Yesterday, four months after his enlistment was extended because of the crisis, they learned his premonition had been correct.
Sergeant Randazzo was killed Wednesday in a skirmish with Iraqi forces near the Saudi Arabia-Kuwait border. He was the second Marylander to die since the Persian Gulf war began.
"The only thing we know was he was on a reconnaissance mission and they ran into an Iraqi position. He was hit by rifle fire," recounted his brother, George Randazzo, as the family gathered at the home of his aunt, Sandy Dreyfus, in the Marley section of Glen Burnie.
Ron Randazzo, 24, was a staff sergeant who drove a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and "loved everything about the Army," his mother, Leona Randazzo, recalled last night.
"He loved the camping, he loved everything," she said, alternately smiling at happy memories and choking up as she thought of his death in the desert.
"He loved driving the tanks, too," said his uncle, Ronald Dreyfus. Sergeant Randazzo was in a tank division based at Fort Hood, Texas.
And Admittedly, he was scared, Mrs. Randazzo said. "He didn't know what was going to happen, all the shooting and the bombs. But he says, 'Mom, I'll do what I have to do.' "
Sergeant Randazzo, who grew up in Marley with four brothers and a sister, joined the National Guard even before he graduated from Glen Burnie High School in 1985, his family said. Two years later, he enlisted for active duty. He had planned to leave the Army and attend Anne Arundel Community College -- "he had the Army taking $100 a month out of his paycheck, saving it for
him," Mrs. Dreyfus said.
He wanted to study law enforcement and become an FBI agent. But, like many others, he was required to stay in the Army because of the crisis in the gulf.
While he was in high school, he "chased girls," Mrs. Dreyfus said.
In a neatly printed letter last November, he told his mother, "Everyone's stressed out but me, ha ha." And in December, he asked his sister-in-law, Donna Randazzo, to videotape television shows and send them to him. "I'm almost out," he wrote.
He called his mother two weeks ago, but she wasn't home. She got the message on the answering machine, she said. He just wanted to say he loved her.
In another phone call about the same time, he told Mr. Dreyfus "he had a lot of things he could tell me about when he got home," his uncle said.