Let me introduce you to Randy Phillips, one of Santa Clarita Valley’s most kindhearted and giving citizens. I can only presume that Randy’s experiences facing the horror of war in Vietnam and early family difficulties resulted in his lifelong devotion to non profit organizations and community service.
Randy was born July 22, 1947 in Jamestown, New York; his family relocated to Oxford, Ohio and as Randy proudly says, “Home of the only Miami University in the United States”. Randy’s Father, a WWII Army Corp test pilot, moved his family to pursue his education at Miami U. In search of better employment opportunities, Randy’s father moved his family to Sunland, California in 1956 where Randy grew up and attended Verdugo Hills High School. Sadly, Randy faced many family issues after his beloved mother passed away from breast cancer in 1964. He graduated high school in the Class of 1965, along with Duane Harte who’s known as the “Heart of Santa Clarita”.
Invited to join U.S. Army
Following high school, Randy attended Valley College before moving back to Oxford, Ohio to live with an uncle while attending Miami University. However, after two 1/2 years, his father refused to pay his $839 college tuition fee demanding that Randy return home to get a job. In the spring of 1968, Randy received Uncle Sam’s famous “greeting”. Randy said, “I was personally invited to join the U.S. Army”. On May 13, 1968 he reported to the Los Angeles Induction Station, and then to Fort Ord, California for Basic and Advanced Infantry Training.
October 7, 1968, Randy and several buddies arrived at Bien Hoa, South Vietnam where they were assigned to Bravo Company, 1st/18th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division known as The Big Red One. Randy became an RTO (Radio Telephone Operator) but surprisingly he was more comfortable taking point during their constant search for Viet Cong fighters. Randy, a bit older than his fellow soldiers, trusted his instincts to better protect his squad in thick jungles they routinely patrolled 25 miles north of Saigon. In addition to harsh terrain and weather conditions, the bane of their existence was booby traps and sniper fire.
After the brutal Tet Offensive of 1968, whereby enemy forces suffered devastating losses from our overwhelming military might, the Vietnam War largely became a booby trap war. General Giap (North Vietnam’s top Commander), realized they could not win militarily so a vigorous propaganda war was launched upon learning President Lyndon Johnson dropped his re-election bid in March 1968. LBJ ceased bombing North Vietnam and chose to pursue peace negotiations. The Vietnam War was, in all practicality, lost at that point.
Of the numerous missions that Randy’s unit experienced, several stand out including a firefight with Viet Cong fighters in which his squad’s machine gunner was seriously wounded and several soldiers were killed. On the spot, Randy became a machine gunner. Once, their firebase camp was practically overrun by VC forces but after hours of heavy engagement, the VC were repelled. Random firefights, booby traps and sniper fire kept Randy and his buddies on constant alert throughout their tour of duty… after awhile, that just wears on you….
When Randy’s tour finally ended and he came home unscathed, he was certain an angel on his shoulder kept him safe and that angel was his mother. Randy was honorably discharged May 12, 1970 at Fort Carson, Colorado but not before he refused a hefty $15,000 bonus to re-enlist. Randy’s awards include Combat Infantryman Badge, Bronze Star for Meritorious Service, two Army Commendations Medals for Meritorious Service, Air Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, National Defense Medal, and Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Soon, Randy was back to Sun Valley, California working at JC Penny’s and attending a technical school learning computers and then a job at Hydro Air in Burbank. But he found his lot in life working for non profit organizations such as Jr. Achievement of Southern California, SCV Red Cross, Habitat for Humanities, United Way, SCV Boy’s and Girl’s Club, American Cancer Society, etc. On June 28, 198o, Randy married Tami Minton and they have one son and one daughter. They moved to Santa Clarita Valley in 1991.
Habitat for Humanity
While with Habitat for Humanities, Randy and Tami travelled to Hanoi, Vietnam to build a home for a poor family who lived on a tiny sampan. It was a rudimentary little house but was so much safer than a sampan; another family had lost a baby girl who accidentally tumbled into a river. While in Vietnam, Randy noticed that though they were in a communist country, it seemed that capitalism was flourishing.
While in Vietnam, Randy and Tami took an overnight cruise at Halong Bay, and toured Hue, Khe Sanh, the DMZ, and Vịnh Mốc Tunnels. Upon returning home, they noticed their trip impacted Randy, so he began visiting the Sepulveda Veterans Administration for help. Since, he has participated in several beneficial programs and serves as a Vet to Vet Peer Support Facilitator. Understanding advantages of VA care and support, Randy urges all Veterans, especially Vietnam Veterans, to visit the VA for any questions or problems they may have.
Randy is a proud Vietnam Veteran and proud to have served with the 1st Infantry Division and as he fondly says, “If you’re gonna be one, it’s best to be a Big Red One”. Randy is a valued member of Santa Clarita Valley Veterans Memorial, Inc., and he urges everyone to attend our fine Memorial Day Ceremony held annually at Eternal Valley Park and Mortuary. Tami is a founding committee member of SCV’s Master Chorale and Randy is a founding member.
Bill Reynolds is one of the “Boys of ‘67,” Charlie Company, 4th/47th, 9th Infantry Division and director of veterans affairs for The Signal.