Monday, May 28, 2018
Military News

More than 100 soldiers depart St. Petersburg for Afghanistan

ST. PETERSBURG — Spc. Darius Radmanesh keeps a photograph of him and his wife tucked away in the front pocket of his uniform.

"I love you" is scribbled on the back, along with a kiss, branded in red lipstick.

He said goodbye Monday to his wife, Kelsey, and their two dogs, Benelli and Ruger, at the Max R. Stover Army Reserve Center.

Amid increasing calls for an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the 22-year-old is among more than 100 soldiers from the 320th Military Police Company who are headed back to that country.

They will remain overseas for nine to 12 months.

This is Radmanesh's first deployment.

"I just got to do my job and come home," said Radmanesh, an Army specialist.

Around the young couple, other loved ones embraced throughout the parking lot of the Army Reserve Center.

Spc. Donald Starcher, 40, kissed his wife, Stephanie, and hugged his son. This also will be Starcher's first deployment.

Starcher's eyes darted between his wife and son as he was asked what he was feeling. "Anxious," he said. "Scared."

Starcher's birthday is Oct. 30, but the family celebrated early by having dinner and watching movies at their Titusville home.

On Monday, a birthday card from his family was among Starcher's belongings.

"I don't know if he'll ever come back or what's going to happen," said his 17-year-old son, Rick.

A few feet away stood Spc. Roy Keyes and his family from Gainesville. Keyes, his wife and their two children held hands moments before he boarded a bus to Tampa International Airport.

Keyes was deployed to Iraq about three years ago after marrying his wife, Angel.

This time, his departure is more difficult, his wife said, because the kids are now 13 and 15 and they understand that not every soldier comes home.

Her cheeks stained with tears, Angel said she was proud of her husband.

"I'm just looking forward to him coming home," she said.

As the last bags were stuffed into the luggage compartments of the buses, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Swanson smiled at his wife.

Swanson and Eliana, 39, of Largo have been together more than five years. This month, they got married.

This is Swanson's fourth deployment. He's been to Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

While they were dating, he was deployed twice.

"You just have to stay positive and everything is going to be okay," Eliana Swanson said.

On Monday, Swanson asked his wife to buy 30 cheeseburgers and 30 orders of fries at McDonald's for his platoon.

"It's always hard," Eliana said. "It doesn't matter how many times you do it."

As her husband stepped onto the bus, she clutched a crumpled McDonald's bag to her chest.

Laura C. Morel can be reached at (727) 893-8713 or [email protected]

Comments
Sun City Center veteran finds honor in remembrance

Sun City Center veteran finds honor in remembrance

Editor’s note: Times correspondent Bob Black, a resident of Sun City Center, shares his thoughts about the Honor Flight of West Central Florida he enjoyed in April. The organization strives to recognize U.S. Veterans for their sacrifice and service b...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/27/18

Security troops on U.S. nuclear missile base took LSD

WASHINGTON — One airman said he felt paranoia. Another marveled at the vibrant colors. A third admitted, "I absolutely just loved altering my mind." Meet service members entrusted with guarding nuclear missiles that are among the most powerful in Ame...
Published: 05/24/18
Their job was to guard our nuclear missiles. Their crime was buying, selling and using LSD

Their job was to guard our nuclear missiles. Their crime was buying, selling and using LSD

WASHINGTON — One airman said he felt paranoia. Another marveled at the vibrant colors. A third admitted, "I absolutely just loved altering my mind." Meet service members entrusted with guarding nuclear missiles that are among the most powerful in Ame...
Published: 05/24/18
Commandos to unleash fury in downtown Tampa, but it’s just a demonstration (w/video)

Commandos to unleash fury in downtown Tampa, but it’s just a demonstration (w/video)

TAMPA — Machines of war will unleash their fury in downtown Tampa on Wednesday afternoon, but it’s just a demonstration.Special operations forces from around the world are scheduled to stage a mock confrontation of good guys versus bad guys from 1:30...
Published: 05/23/18
Shopping Tampa for Ukraine commandos: Bomb-sniffers, drones and laser-proof sniper scopes

Shopping Tampa for Ukraine commandos: Bomb-sniffers, drones and laser-proof sniper scopes

TAMPA — Like a homeowner combing Home Depot for his latest project, Roman Mashovets spent a good part of Tuesday wandering the floor at the Tampa Convention Center.But instead of nails and plywood, Mashovets — a former Ukraine special operations forc...
Published: 05/23/18
CentCom’s Votel: U.S. will stay in Syria to fight ISIS and keep an eye on Iran

CentCom’s Votel: U.S. will stay in Syria to fight ISIS and keep an eye on Iran

TAMPA — In March, President Donald Trump said he would be pulling U.S. troops out of Syria "very soon." But they’re still there, and will stay there, to defeat what’s left of the so-called Islamic State, says the man in charge of military efforts in ...
Published: 05/22/18
As special ops conference opens in Tampa, CentCom works to ease commandos’ burden

As special ops conference opens in Tampa, CentCom works to ease commandos’ burden

TAMPA — As thousands of people flock to Tampa for the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, the general in charge of U.S. forces across the Middle East along with Southwest and Central Asia said efforts are underway to reduce the stra...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18
Trump announces he will nominate acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to become department’s permanent leader

Trump announces he will nominate acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to become department’s permanent leader

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Friday that he plans to nominate Department of Veterans Affairs Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie to become the department’s permanent leader, noting that the decision may come as a surprise to Wilkie."I’ll ...
Published: 05/18/18
McDonald’s giving away free food to military members today

McDonald’s giving away free food to military members today

TAMPA— All current and former military service members in central Florida can stop by their local McDonald’s and grab a free burger today.In celebration of Military Appreciation Month, McDonald’s is giving away a "Taste of Thanks." All veterans and c...
Published: 05/17/18
Howard Altman: MacDill chosen to sell new Army-like Air Force uniforms

Howard Altman: MacDill chosen to sell new Army-like Air Force uniforms

Home to headquarters including U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base is at the forefront of a lot of important military action.Now it is taking on a new role — as a prime Air Force clothier.The flying branch...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18