Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Marine Robert Buskey's death remains a tragic mystery

Pfc. Robert Buskey, 27, would ask his mother, Megan Buskey Gamelin, for relationship advice. He messaged her daily.

Special to the Times

Pfc. Robert Buskey, 27, would ask his mother, Megan Buskey Gamelin, for relationship advice. He messaged her daily.

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."

• • •

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."

• • •

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.

On the web

A tribute

To watch a video of Mr. Buskey on YouTube:

Marine Robert Buskey's death remains a tragic mystery 03/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 14, 2009 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Empire' star Grace Byers keynotes USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy luncheon

    Human Interest


    TAMPA — The first University of South Florida graduate to address the USF's Women in Leadership & Philanthropy supporters, Grace Gealey Byers, class of 2006, centered her speech on her first name, turning it into a verb to share life lessons.

    Grace Byers, University of South Florida Class of 2006, stars on the Fox television show Empire. She delivered the keynote at the USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy luncheon Friday. Photo by Amy Scherzer
  2. Southeast Seminole Heights holds candlelight vigil for victims' families and each other


    TAMPA — They came together in solidarity in Southeast Seminole Heights, to sustain three families in their grief and to confront fear, at a candlelight vigil held Sunday night in the central Tampa neighborhood.

    A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during the candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
  3. It's not just Puerto Rico: FEMA bogs down in Florida, Texas too

    HOUSTON — Outside Rachel Roberts' house, a skeleton sits on a chair next to the driveway, a skeleton child on its lap, an empty cup in its hand and a sign at its feet that reads "Waiting on FEMA."

    Ernestino Leon sits among the debris removed from his family’s flood-damaged Bonita Springs home on Oct. 11. He has waited five weeks for FEMA to provide $10,000 to repair the home.
  4. McConnell says he's awaiting Trump guidance on health care

    STERLING, Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's willing to bring bipartisan health care legislation to the floor if President Donald Trump makes clear he supports it.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s “not certain yet” on what Trump wants.
  5. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series


    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.