Iraqi blast claims alumnus

Memorial services where held Saturday at Miami’s Ebenezer United Methodist Church for the first FAMU alumnus killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Sgt. Edmond L. Randle Jr., 26, was killed on Jan. 17 while conducting a surveillance sweep north of Baghdad.

Randle, along with Pfc. Cody J. Orr, 21, and Spc. Larry E. Polley Jr. 20, was part of a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol looking for roadside bombs when their Bradley fighting vehicle struck an improvised explosive device and overturned.

Witnesses said the blast flipped the 30-ton vehicle and set it afire on the Canes fields.

The soldiers came from the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas.

Randle was a student at FAMU when he joined the Army. He enlisted to pay for additional educational costs not covered by his scholarship.

While at FAMU, Randle was a trumpet player with the Marching 100.

“Mr. Randle was loyally committed to the principles of the Marching 100,” said Julian White, director of bands and chairman of the department of music.

“We equally share the tragic loss with the family,” White said, as he reflected on his former recruit from Miami Central High School.

The music department’s ceremonial band performed at the memorial.

Longtime friend Jarrit Sheel remembers Randle as an instrumentalist who practiced day in and day out to be the best trumpet player he could.

“Edmond had the ‘never say never’ mentality … his talent of dedication made him who he was,” said Sheel 27, senior music student from Fort Lauderdale.

Although he majored in pharmacy, Karla Randle-West, Randle’s mother, said she believes that trumpet playing was his gift. He joined the Marching 100 in 1995, but marched in a band and played the trumpet since he was in the ninth grade.

“He enjoyed playing so much he even purchased a pure gold trumpet,” Randle-West said. “His love for playing encouraged him to join FAMU where his father marched as a percussionist.”

Before playing the trumpet. Randle tackled drumming like his father Edmond Randle Sr. His father played with the Marching 100 from 1974 to 1980. He said he believes his son was born to play the trumpet.

“In middle school band directors told my son that his lips were naturally fitted to play the trumpet,” Randle Sr. said.

Randle was born while his parents were attending FAMU and Randle Sr. often took him to band rehearsal to watch them practice.

“Although my son was four he enjoyed hearing us,” Randle Sr. said

Randle was the eldest of 44 cousins and was greatly admired.

While reminiscing, Will McKnight, cousin of Randle, said, “He was a role model who took care of his cousins and did no wrong in their sight.”

Randle’s cousins said he taught them to make wise decisions.

Pfc. Marvin McKnight, a cousin of Randle who also serves in the armed forces, said he would not be reenlisting because of his cousin’s death.

“I love serving my country but this is too much.”

McKnight has three more years to go.

The Rev. Jimmy Brown, pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist, said Friday he planned to comfort the family with words of encouragement and experience.

“I will talk about the great sacrifice of serving in a war compared to the sacrifice Christ paid for mankind,” said Brown, who received a Bronze Star for his services in Vietnam as an Airman.

Randle was laid to rest with his trumpet and mouthpiece in his hand.

Contact Benjamin Evans III at