At 4:30 a.m. on Valentine's Day, Megan Buskey Gamelin heard a knock on her door.
It was an unexpected visit from her son, Pvt. First Class Robert Buskey, a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C. He had driven 13 hours to surprise his mother at her Tampa home.
"He said, 'Happy Valentine's Day,' " recalled Buskey Gamelin. "He said, 'I'm here to spend the day with the woman I love the most.'"
Two weeks later, Buskey Gamelin, 48, got another knock on her door. This time, it was military officials. They said her 27-year-old son had died in his sleep on March 2, two months before he was supposed to leave for Afghanistan.
Toxicology results will take seven weeks, leaving Buskey Gamelin without any idea of how her son died.
"It hurts," Buskey Gamelin said, "because I don't know what happened."
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Mr. Buskey was born in Concord, N.H., and grew up in Wesley Chapel. He had two sisters, Elizabeth Brown and Rachel Gamelin. Mr. Buskey was raised by his mother and stepfather, Richard Gamelin.
When he was younger, Mr. Buskey enjoyed skateboarding. Once, while skateboarding at home, he flew off the two steps that led to the family's living room. The skateboard careened into the wall, leaving a hole.
"He tried patching it, and when his stepdad and I got home, we noticed the patch," said Buskey Gamelin. "He tried talking his way out of it."
Mr. Buskey went to Land O'Lakes High School and graduated in 1999. For a while, he worked odd jobs as a chef at a country club and as a cook at a sports bar.
Outside of work, he liked rap music and watching mixed martial arts fighting.
He knew she would worry, so Mr. Buskey didn't tell his mother he was joining the Marines until after he enlisted last March.
He attended boot camp in Parris Island, S.C., and trained in Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri before heading to Camp Lejeune.
While there, he worked as a vehicle operator. He talked to his mother often, text messaging three or four times a day.
Sometimes, he would forward his mother text messages and photos of potential dates. He would ask her, "What do you think, Mom?"
He also made sure his mother could take part in his military experiences.
"Whenever there was a change of command," Buskey Gamelin said, "he would put his cell in his pocket so I could hear it."
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In recent months, Mr. Buskey had been getting to know Alicia McCoach, 27, a Punta Gorda woman he met through an online dating Web site.
They talked daily, about their love of rap, about growing up and becoming the people they wanted to be. They chatted for hours the night Mr. Buskey drove to see his mother for Valentine's Day. McCoach and Mr. Buskey planned to meet face-to-face at his mother's house before he left for his overseas tour.
One day, McCoach went on Mr. Buskey's MySpace page and saw messages like "RIP brother" and "I can't believe this." She contacted one of Mr. Buskey's friends, who confirmed that he had died.
She asked Mr. Buskey's family if she could attend his funeral, and they agreed.
The first time McCoach saw Buskey was at his funeral in Dade City, before he was buried at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.
"To have to meet him at our goodbye was really hard," McCoach said. "It's completely heartbreaking."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4609.