‘Foundation you’ve built’ - Col. Mark Randazzo began career as enlisted soldier in 1035th Maintenance Company
For eighteen years, the late Mark Randazzo was associated with the 1035th Maintenance Company, accompanying them on their relocation from Jefferson City to Jefferson Barracks in 1995. He came of age with the unit, beginning his military career as a young enlisted soldier and later attended Officer Candidate School followed by a promotion to company commander.
“The 1035th was always home for him because he was so young and impressionable when he joined the company,” said Lisa Randazzo, the late veteran’s wife. “He served with so many wonderful people that were good mentors for him.”
Born in St. Louis and later growing up near Eugene, Randazzo attended Our Lady of the Snows Elementary School in Mary’s Home and went on to graduate from Helias Catholic High School in 1981. Between his junior and senior year, he made the decision to enlist in the Missouri National Guard and began drilling as an enlisted soldier with the 1035th Maintenance Company, which was at the time located at the former National Guard headquarters complex on Industrial Drive in Jefferson City. Through some encouragement, he enrolled at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg (now University of Central Missouri) following his graduation from high school.
“Attendance at both Helias and Central Missouri State were not my idea, but I sure am glad my parents pushed me and made me do it,” said Randazzo during a 2006 presentation to the Missouri Retired Teachers Association.
Graduating with a degree in aviation technology in 1986, the young soldier acquired full-time employment as a mechanic with the maintenance shop at the Missouri National Guard headquarters. A few years later, he was encouraged to apply for Officer Candidate School (OCS).
“We were married on September 16, 1989, a month or so after he graduated from OCS,” said Lisa Randazzo. “He continued working full-time at the maintenance shop and, in March 1991, was commissioned as a second lieutenant while continuing to drill with the 1035th.”
Having invested 10 years as an enlisted soldier and mechanic with the 1035th, the next several years were a progression of assignments for the officer that included service as detachment commander, maintenance control officer and, following the company’s move to Jefferson Barracks, appointment as company commander on August 24, 1995. When completing his command in June 1998, he received a grand farewell at a ceremony during which he was presented a guidon (flag) from the soldiers of the 1035th in addition to a plaque that read, in part, “Your professionalism, dedication, guidance and friendship as a soldier … and commander have gotten us where we are. Our future successes will be based upon the foundation you’ve built.”
His part-time military duties led to an appointment as executive officer for the 835th Corps Support Battalion, with whom he deployed to Iraq from December 2003 to January 2005.
Acknowledging the sacrifices made by his wife, Randazzo stated in the aforementioned presentation to the Missouri Retired Teachers Association, “During the 13 months I was gone (to Iraq), I missed quite a bit: my wife built a house, sold our old house and had a baby (their youngest son, Michael) the day I convoyed from Kuwait to Iraq.”
In his full-time capacity, Randazzo’s career advanced with assignments that included a tour with National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia, assignment as the Surface Maintenance Manager and eventually as the Director of Logistics for the Missouri Army National Guard. In 2000, he became a major followed by promotion to lieutenant colonel in 2006.
Sadly, the revered 48-year-old officer passed away unexpectedly in 2011, leaving behind his wife and two young sons. At the time of his passing, he had compiled an impressive resume with more than 31 years of military service and was posthumously promoted to colonel.
“When Mark died, we were trying to decide where he should be buried,” said Lisa. “I found a red deployment booklet that he had written inside that if something should happen to him, he wished to be buried in a federal cemetery.”
Following discussions with the funeral home, she learned that no new burials were being made in the Jefferson City National Cemetery, but when the other federal cemeteries in Missouri were mentioned, she immediately found her answer.
“They said Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery was open to burials, and I knew that is where he would have wanted to be,” she said. “He served with the 1035th at Jefferson Barracks for all those years, speaking about how he loved the area and could gaze upon the cemetery from his office there.”
With a military career composed of a medley of fascinating experiences and resulting in the award of such prestigious medals as the Legion of Merit and a Bronze Star, it was his time with the 1035th Maintenance Company that remained the most influential, his wife affirmed.
“He was so young when he enlisted and the mechanics in the 1035th were much older than him and could have been his father,” she said. “You can grow up in an organization like that and it certainly made a lasting impression on him.”
Joseph, the oldest of the veteran's two sons, explained that he and his brother were quite young when their father passed away, but hearing stories about his service helps provide them with insight into the impact he made during his career.
“What’s most important to us is when people speak well of our father and share with us the good memories they have of him,” said Joseph. “We appreciate hearing about the positive influence he was in the lives of others.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Jeremy P. Amick is a military historian and author dedicated to preserving our nation's military legacies.