[Congressional Record Volume 150, Number 9 (Friday, January 30, 2004)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E83]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                         HON. KENDRICK B. MEEK

                               of florida

                    in the house of representatives

                        Friday, January 30, 2004

  Mr. MEEK of Florida. Mr. Speaker, President George Bush made his 
highest profile re-election pitch yet with his annual State of the 
Union speech. His aides said that President Bush planned to defend the 
war in Iraq unapologetically. He was likely also to talk ``at length'' 
about the Middle East and Afghanistan and assure Americans that their 
Government is winning the global war on terrorism.
  Oddly, unlike last year, the President's aides had not described what 
the President would say about Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction--the 
chemical and nuclear weapons that President Bush so confidently and 
urgently assured us last year that Iraq was developing and stockpiling;
  The weapons of mass destruction President Bush said threatened the 
very lives and homes of the American people;
  The weapons of mass destruction that President Bush told us last year 
was the reason this Nation had to go to war.
  But on Saturday in Iraq, a remote-controlled bomb, planted on an 
access road and made up of two 155 mm artillery rounds and other 
explosives, was detonated killing three fine U.S. soldiers, two Iraqi 
civil defense workers, and wounding two other American soldiers. The 
blast was so powerful that it flipped the 30-ton Bradley over and set 
it afire.
  The number of U.S. service members who have died since the Iraq 
conflict began on March 20th reached 500 with that blast.
  The 500th young American to die was from my district in Miami, 
Florida, Sergeant Edmond Randle, Jr.
  Pentagon officials reported to me that Sgt. Randle of 2nd Battalion, 
20th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Division died with two 
others of his comrades in Taji, Iraq. He has joined 502 other Americans 
who have given their lives in defense of our country, and on behalf of 
its citizens.
  I visited Karla Randle-West, Edmond's mother and Hattie Hightower, 
his grandmother, in Carol City, Florida where Edmond grew up. I prayed 
with them, and they told me a little about the son who would have 
turned 27 this coming Saturday. Like many of our courageous soldiers, 
he was pragmatic and ambitious, joining the Army 3 years ago to raise 
money in order to continue studying at Florida A&M University, my Alma 

  He was a pharmacy student in one of the most challenging programs in 
the Nation. His mother told me that he also played the trumpet in the 
Marching 100, one of the best marching bands in the world. He gave up 
his music scholarship to pursue a degree in Pharmacy and took a job in 
order to pay his tuition and expenses.
  He found out that the Army would pay for college tuition if he joined 
and served for 4 years. He signed up, and though initially worried, 
embraced his deployment to Iraq as a means to help out his fellow man. 
His family described him as a caring and sympathetic person who often 
looked for ways to help out other people.
  On Saturday, that was exactly what he was doing, helping people. He 
and his mates were conducting a surveillance sweep for roadside bombs 
north of Baghdad when the attack occurred. He died alongside a fellow 
Floridian, Private First Class Cody Orr, and a Texan, Specialist Larry 
Polley, Jr. They were all brave soldiers, soldiers who put themselves 
in harm's way to honor their commitment to the United States of 
America. They were soldiers who chased an often faceless enemy to 
protect men, women, and families they will never know. Unfortunately, 
they were among 503 Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice while 
proudly defending the Red, White, and Blue.
  Reaching that threshold underscores the dangers still facing U.S. 
forces in Iraq as President Bush's administration prepares to seek help 
from the United Nations in building a new Iraq, after shunning the 
world organization for months.
  Sgt. Randle was to return home to his family in March, when another 
mother's son would likely replace him. As it is, his cousin is soon to 
be deployed himself. Certainly, it would make Sergeant Randle's death, 
the death of the other 502 soldiers; the wounds and injuries of 2,893 
others, and the countless civilian casualties of no importance were we 
to pull out of Iraq without an established government with some form of 
democratic identity.
  But, we should expend every energy, every diplomatic means, and every 
world resource to make the turn-over of power to the Iraqis happen as 
quickly as possible, so that we can bring our troops home. In the 
meantime, I would continue to hope that the supplemental appropriations 
given to the Pentagon last Fall would purchase the jammers that might 
have prevented the remote detonation of the bomb that killed Sgt. 
  Edmond Randle represented everything about the American soldier that 
we look up to--he was a talented musician, dedicated student, and much-
loved son and grandchild. He was also a brave and honorable soldier in 
the United States Army. He will be missed by his family, his friends, 
and his fellow troops.