America Supports You: Nevada Man Donates Money, Gifts
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 8, 2005 With his family in tow, Phil Randazzo came here over the Fourth of July weekend to pay respect to wounded servicemembers and to hand out a few tokens of his appreciation.
Left to Right, Jennifer, Phil, Joey, Philip and Megan Randazzo. The Randazzo family visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., over the Fourth of July weekend and donated 13 mini DVD players and 50 DVDs. Phil started the Nevada Benefits Foundation in 2003 to raise money for military families. Photo by Steven Smith
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Along with his wife and three children, Randazzo visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center here and donated 13 mini DVD players and 50 DVDs to the institution so that wounded troops can enjoy a variety of movies and television programs during their recovery, Randazzo said.
"These are the people who make our country great," he said. "My wife and I could not have felt any better. The greatest thing is that we got to personally deliver these items directly to the soldiers; that made it much more meaningful than mailing the items."
Randazzo also made a $10,000 donation to the Fisher House at Walter Reed.
A Las Vegas businessman, Randazzo has been actively involved in supporting the troops for more than two years. Shortly after the war in Iraq began in March 2003, he started the Nevada Benefits Foundation to raise money for military families. The Nevada Benefits Foundation is an offshoot of Randazzo's Nevada Benefits insurance company, which sells individual and group health insurance.
He has also orchestrated two pro-troop rallies in Las Vegas. The first rally, in March 2003, was a way to counter the numerous anti-war protests that were being held around the world, he said. The rally drew more than 5,000 supporters and raised $30,000 for the United Service Organizations, he said.
In the spring of 2004 Randazzo launched the Web site DefendingFreedom.net and began manufacturing camouflage "Defending Freedom" wristbands. The wristbands are donated to military bases and military charities around the country. The charities then sell the wristbands for $3 and keep the proceeds for their respective causes, he said.
"One hundred percent of the wristband proceeds go to military charities to support the men and women in uniform and their families. In doing this, we have made a difference in many peoples lives worldwide," he said.
Randazzo pays all manufacturing costs associated with the wristbands out of his own pocket. To date, the 800,000 wristbands that have been produced have raised almost $500,000 for the charities. His ultimate goal is to raise $1 million, he said.
Some of the charities that have received donated wristbands are the Armed Forces Relief Trust, Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, USO Wounded Warrior Project of North Carolina, Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund, Soldier Ride, and the Fallen Patriot Fund, Randazzo said.
The Randazzo family also has sent more than 300,000 wristbands to troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. "My wife is essentially an employee of the Post Office. She spends two to three hours per day filling out customs forms and getting everything insured," he said.
His inspiration for the wristband project came from the death of former professional football player Pat Tillman. Tillman gave up a lucrative NFL contract to join the Army Rangers and was subsequently killed in Afghanistan in April 2004. "Tillman was more interested in serving his country than making a ton of money. I totally respect that," he said.
Randazzo said he has gotten an enormous amount of satisfaction from seeing troops in Iraq wearing the wristbands. "It's awesome to see troops on CNN and Fox News wearing the wristbands," he said.
He was also excited to learn that Iraqi security forces are now asking for the wristbands, he said.
Randazzo is hoping to get the opportunity to go to Iraq and hand out wristbands to the troops. "I want to hang out with those guys, personally hand out wristbands; that's my ultimate goal with this project," he said.
"I don't care what your opinion of the war is. It's critical that we supports these guys," Randazzo concluded.