When Paul Randazzo first sees his son's name in big letters carved in stone on the war memorial, he purses his lips and shakes his head. He stands with his wife and family under blazing sun in Glen Burnie Sunday afternoon as the block of red granite is unveiled at a dedication ceremony.
Randazzo places his left arm on his wife, Leona's, shoulder, looks around through red eyes and holds it all in.
The master of ceremonies reads the inscription carved onto the polished Missouri red granite. The politicians have spoken, the dignitaries have all been introduced.
Now, in a little triangle of grass and brick called Logo Park on Ritchie Highway, the spotlight belongs to a 24-year-old Glen Burnie man who was killed in the Saudi Arabian desert on February 20.
"So we do not forget to honor Sgt. Ronald M. Randazzo and the men and women of Desert Storm," says George E. Surgeon, master of ceremonies and director of the county Careers Center in Crownsville.
Randazzo looks at the ground, rocks just slightly back and forth. He's a big man in gray slacks and a white shirt with a red carnation pinned over the left pocket. Ronald was the second youngest of his five sons.
On Feb. 21 an Army chaplain knocked on the Randazzos' door at Ralph Road and told them what happened out in the sand on the border of Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
"Give not one inch of our most sacred land to the enemies of freedom," says Surgeon, reading the inscription written by Samuel G. Kemp, the Brooklyn Park florist who paid for the memorial, the giant flag that flies over it andthe 70-foot flagpole. "But give all of life's precious blood if needbe to preserve it."
Randazzo lifts his right hand and wipes the corner of his right eye. Now the Firing Squad of the Corporal J. D. Youngham Memorial Post No. 434 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars fires a rifle salute. The shots report over the traffic at Ritchie Highway and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard.
Ronald Randazzo, who graduated from Glen Burnie High School and joined the Army in 1987, died with twoother soldiers when their anti-aircraft tank was hit by Iraqi fire as they rode the tank over a small hill.
Ronald, one of seven Marylanders killed in Desert Storm, had been in Saudi Arabia since August with the 5th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division. He had been due for discharge earlier, but his hitch was extended by the war. Ronald planned to study law enforcement at Anne Arundel Community College. He had hoped to work for the FBI.
When Surgeon finishes reading the inscription, Spec. Marcus Lansey of the 229th Maryland National Guard Band stands up, puts his trumpet to his lips and plays "Taps."
Leona Randazzo looks straight ahead, holding in her arms a spray of roses trailing ribbons of red, white and blue. Behind her, Ronald's 27-year-old brother, Michael, embraces his fiancee, Beverly Colburn. A child cries back in the crowd.
Randazzo lifts his head to the giant flag stretched out full on a strong breeze from the north. He's squinting into the sun, almost as if he's looking for something upthere. He's holding it all in.
Surgeon introduces Randazzo. Randazzo steps slowly to the podium and faces the stone block with his son's name in 2-inch-high capital letters.
"God bless Glen Burnie," Randazzo says. "We always knew Anne Arundel County takes care of its own. We wish to thank all of you for the support you have given me andmy family."
He tells the crowd of a couple hundred that the Ronald M. Randazzo Memorial Scholarship Fund for law enforcement studies at Anne Arundel Community College is up to $58,000, with a $5,000 check expected from the Kuwaiti government. He thanks Kemp, a World War II veteran who has a wall full of community service plaques up at Cedar Hill Florist on Ritchie Highway. He introduces his children, his four sons and his daughter, all of whom are there.
"God bless America," he says. "And God bless Glen Burnie and its residents. I thank you."
With that, he walks away from the podium back to his wife and children. He doesn't say anything about Ronald right now. Later, though, he says Ronald "was something special from the day he was born. There wasn't a careless or a callous bone in his body. He was the kindof kid who would give you anything he had and go without himself."
As he speaks in the District Court building across from Logo Park, a storm gathers outside. In minutes the sky is slate gray and the breeze that sailed the giant flag over Ronald M. Randazzo's memorial turns to gusty wind. The flagpole sways. Soon a driving rain washes the red stone.
Mrs. Randazzo says she and her husband approached the ceremony with mixed emotions.
"We knew it would be sad, but we werelooking forward to it because we knew it would honor him," Mrs. Randazzo says. "We live just five minutes away and we knew we would have to pass here no matter where we go. We'll always pass it and think ofhim and be proud of him. We are proud of him."