By Chris Edwards
WOODVILLE – Sociologists labelled folks of Alonzo Randolph’s demographic “The Greatest Generation,” due to their weathering of hardships such as the Great Depression and World War II.
Randolph, a Colmesneil resident, does not look nearly old enough to claim part of that group. With his tall, sturdy frame, youthful smile and super-firm handshake, Randolph appears and acts several decades younger than the milestone birthday he celebrated last Thursday.
He is a soft-spoken man who enjoys a good laugh and conversation and he got to enjoy a great deal of laughter, telling stories and celebration of birthday number 102. This occasion was celebrated with a party and a couple of special commendations for his service to his country.
Randolph is a World War II Army combat veteran. He served in the Army as a Staff Sgt. and was a combat engineer who served in the China-Burma-India Theater.
He was joined on Thursday by his wife, Rosemary and several friends, family members and well-wishers who simply wanted to come to meet and shake the hand of one of the Greatest Generation.
The county veterans’ service office hosted the party for Randolph at the Nutrition Center in Woodville. Along with cards and gifts, Randolph also received a special certificate from U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-Woodville) commending him for his service. Sarah Blacksher from Babin’s office presented him with the document.
Jose Narvaez, a Marine Corps veteran who volunteers his time to give elderly veterans birthday parties, was also on hand. He presented Randolph with a medal that celebrated his service in working on the Burma road from India to China.
Narvaez said that when he first met Randolph, he was amazed at what he told him, about his service, as he’d not met many vets who’d been a part of the Burma campaign.
When Narvaez handed Randolph the case with the medal inside, the birthday boy was visibly moved and stunned.
Randolph said it was something he had been looking for, and waiting to receive, for more than 60 years.
“Those medals are hard to get,” Narvaez said. “I looked for a long time for a campaign medal and ribbon for him.”
Narvaez was present two years ago when Babin and State Rep. James White helped Randolph celebrate his 100th birthday, with commendations and a flag that had flown over the nation’s capitol.
White, an Army veteran himself, remarked that meeting and speaking with a hale and hearty older veteran like Randolph made him want to grab his gunny sack and get back into the field.
Babin, also a military veteran, said last week that it is a great privilege to represent an American hero like Randolph in Congress.
Tina Cleberg, the county’s veterans’ service officer, said it was an honor to help Randolph celebrate his birthday and said “He’s just a great guy.”
For all of the commendations and recognition, Randolph was humbled and grateful, but the chance to enjoy some fellowship with folks like John Allen Bean and Wilbert Barnett, among others, on Thursday, may have been the best gift of all, judging by his laughter and smile.