Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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

More than 100 soldiers depart St. Petersburg for Afghanistan 10/22/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 22, 2012 10:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No. 12 FSU, freshman QB James Blackman struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State


    TALLAHASSEE — Whatever was left of No. 12 Florida State's College Football Playoff hopes suffered a massive, likely fatal, blow Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

    Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (8) carries during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  2. Trump tells Warriors star Stephen Curry that White House visit is off


    SOMERSET, N.J. — Stephen Curry and President Donald Trump agree on one thing: The Golden State star is not going to the White House anytime soon.

    Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry poses for photos during NBA basketball team media day Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. [Associated Press]
  3. For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing another old friend in Jeremy Hellickson


    UPDATE, 3:29: Here is the Rays lineup, with Duda at 1B and Morrison the DH:

  4. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  5. Charles Bradley, acclaimed Florida soul singer, dies at 68


    Acclaimed Florida R&B powerhouse Charles Bradley, whose raw, pained voice earned him the nickname the Screaming Eagle of Soul, has died of cancer at 68, his representatives announced Saturday.

    Charles Bradley performed at the 2016 Gasparilla Music Festival.