By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6
HENRYETTA, OK -- A fallen Oklahoma sailor was laid to rest on Wednesday. More than 500 people turned out to offer a final farewell to 22-year-old Naval Officer Tony Randolph. And, for the first time since losing her son, Randolph's mother speaks about her terrible loss.
Tony Randolph lost his life to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
"He was always just special. He was just special," said his mother, Peggy Randolph.
Randolph was special as a star high school football player and a respected leader on and off the field.
"That's how we was to all of his friends. You needed a hand, he was there. No matter what," said Shane Howell, Tony's friend.
Hundreds of friends and family members packed every aisle at Henryetta's First Baptist Church for a moving memorial.
"I can't even express the pride I have, and the gratitude," said Peggy Randolph.
A video montage showed dozens of photos of Randolph in uniform: a football uniform and after graduation, a military one.
"I'm just so overwhelmed and humbled. I'm so very humbled," said Peggy Randolph.
To the country he was a hero. To Peggy Randolph, he was first, a son.
"That's the way he was. The same dedication, the same personality, the same drive. That was my Tony," said Peggy Randolph.
Petty Officer Randolph was beginning his journey as a career Naval officer. He had been serving in Afghanistan for four months.
"Tony was a leader. I truly believe he was a natural born leader," said Henryetta Football Coach Kenny Speer.
He was known for his toughness. In high school one day, Coach Speer made him run lap after lap. All Tony had to do was say, "yes sir" for the punishment to end.
"I said, Tony, you say the two magic words to make you stop running. So he looks at me and goes, ‘Si Senor,'" said Coach Kenny Speer.
Officer Tony Randolph was a brave hero, determined and proud.
"He loved his friends. He loved his family. He loved his country. That was Tony," said his mother, Peggy Randolph.
Coach Kenny Speer says he will retire Randolph's number, number 57, during a ceremony at Henryetta's first home game of this year's season.
Officer Randolph was buried at the Hillcrest Cemetery in Weleetka.