The parents of Sgt. Ronald Randazzo, killed in the Persian Gulf War, say the U.S. Army took not only their son, but the financial security he thought he left behind.
Sgt. Randazzo, a Glen Burnie native, died Feb. 20, 1991 in a skirmish near the Saudi Arabian border. He was 24.
Now his family is trying to collect the $250,000 life insurance policy he applied for shortly before he left for the the Gulf.
The Army refuses to pay.
It claims never to have received Sgt. Randazzo's written authorization for a payroll deduction for life insurance. Randazzo's parents, Paul and Leone, and Congressman Tom McMillen, D-4th, believe Army officials lost that request.
"I can only conclude that this is a classic but tragic case of a bureaucratic foul-up on the part of the Army," said Mr. McMillen, who has wrangled with the Army since March.
"Up until this point, we've been trying to work on getting the Army to find the paperwork. They came to us in late May and said we have no record of it. Now we're ready to move to a higher level," said Brad Fitch, McMillen's press secretary.
In an effort to draw attention to the Randazzos' problem, Mr. McMillen held a news conference in Glen Burnie this morning. McMillen hopes that if the Army encounters moral outrage at the Army's treatment of the family of a slain hero, it will pay the policy.
"My son wanted to leave a legacy to this family," said Mr. Randazzo, choking back tears. "Knowing this was one of our fallen son's last wishes, it would seem to me that the Army should do whatever is necessary to correct this wrong."
Mr. Randazzo was surrounded by the dead sergeant's mother, sister, nieces and nephews at Michael's Eighth Avenue, a restaurant in Glen Burnie.
"We, as a family, want this done," Mr. Randazzo said. "I never really wanted to get to this point because this family loves the Army and what it has done for all of our children."
Army officials could not be reached for comment this morning. But in a May 10 letter to McMillen, Lt. Col. D. William Atwood, chief of the special actions branch, said the Army has no record that Sgt. Randazzo ever submitted the proper paperwork.
Mr. McMillen and the Randazzos are certain he applied properly for the insurance policy.
One week before he applied for the $250,000 policy, Sgt. Randazzo correctly filled out the necessary paperwork for a $100,000 policy. He filled out two forms -- the application itself and an authorization for a payroll deduction to pay for the policy. Both were received and processed by the Army and American Amicable Life, which has paid that policy to the family.
Apparently deciding he wanted more coverage, Sgt. Randazzo made a second application on Aug. 30, 1990, this time for $250,000. The insurance company, the Military Benefit Association Term Life Insurance Plan, received both the application and the request for a deduction, but the Army says it received nothing.
"If Sgt. Randazzo hadn't jumped through all the hoops a week earlier, it wouldn't be so convincing that he did it and the Army made a mistake," Mr. Fitch said.
In a letter dated June 18 to U.S. Army Secretary Michael P.W. Stone, Mr. McMillen wrote, "I have found your department's responses wholly unsatisfactory. The evidence . . . indicates that Sgt. Randazzo did everything legally required of him to purchase this life insurance policy.
"Further, the evidence indicates that the U.S. Army -- at some point in the paper pipeline -- has made a tragic error which is causing pain and hardship to the Randazzo family."