Advertisement
  1. Military

Tampa soldier dies in Afghanistan attack that claimed 6

Published Jul. 11, 2012

TAMPA — It was 6:15 Monday morning and Ignacia Seija was getting ready for her job as an airport custodian.

Her two dogs started barking. Her husband saw two men in military uniforms approaching their West Tampa home.

"When I saw those two men, I knew it wasn't anything good," Ignacia Seija said in Spanish. "I knew my son had died."

Her son, Army Staff Sgt. Ricardo Seija, 31, was killed Sunday in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan.

It was the same attack, a family member said, that had killed Army Sgt. Clarence Williams III, 23, of Brooksville and four other Americans. They were riding in an armored vehicle in Wardak province, just south of Kabul, when an improvised explosive device went off.

The knock on the door of the West Tampa home was the second visit military officers had made early Monday to deliver grim news. At 5 a.m., officers told the Williams family that their son, a 2008 Hernando High grad who hoped to someday become a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, had died in the attack.

Williams and Seija became the 27th and 28th Tampa Bay area service members to have died in Afghanistan.

"I don't understand it," Ignacia Seija said Tuesday. "Why? Why? He was my baby."

A staff sergeant in the 978th military police company, Seija was the youngest of three sons of Ignacia and her husband, also named Ricardo.

The parents emigrated from Colombia, and the sons spent their childhoods in Chicago.

As children, the three would wrestle together, Ignacia Seija said. Ricardo became a high school wrestler.

The parents brought him to Tampa in the late 1990s, where he enrolled in Leto High School. He was quiet, but well-liked.

"The girls used to all chase him," his mother said.

He wasn't a great student, she said, but wasn't a bad one, either.

"He never got in trouble. He was respectful of everyone. He was very disciplined," Ignacia Seija said.

And Ricardo wanted to join the Army as soon as he graduated.

"It was his emotion," she said. "It was something he felt in his heart. He loved his country."

When he joined, mother and son had the first of many conversations in which she would tell him to be careful.

The Army sent him to Korea, Germany and Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, he met his first wife, Sgt. Jill Taylor.

He made a positive impression on his father-in-law, a tugboat captain from Bay St. Louis, Miss.

"I got the impression that he liked the toughness of his duty," said the father-in-law, Jim Taylor. "He was really enthusiastic about moving up in the ranks."

He described Seija as a quiet man who did his job and never complained.

Seija married Jill Taylor in 2003 and had a son — Little Ricky, Ignacia Seija calls him.

Seija and Taylor divorced in 2006. The 8-year-old boy lives in Missouri with his mother and grandmother, Jim Taylor said.

Seija recently remarried, said Ignacia Seija, who is a custodian at Tampa International Airport. He deployed to Afghanistan in March.

Taylor reached out to his ex-son-in-law recently and asked him to come home to be with Little Ricky, who had been getting in trouble in school.

"He applied for a hardship leave and was supposed to be home in a month," Taylor said. "It's a tragedy all the way around. At the very time when his son needed him the most, he was killed."

The staff sergeant and his mother would talk on the phone about once a week. He would ask about his older brothers in Chicago.

"He couldn't say anything about his work," she said, and that frustrated her. "It was like having your hands tied by your sides."

Be careful, she kept reminding him. Don't trust anybody. Not even little children.

Services will be held in Tampa, but details have not been announced.

Notice went out to Little Ricky in Missouri as well.

"The Army came to the house early Monday morning and told him his dad died," Jim Taylor said.

"They said he was a hero and he was no longer here, and that he was up in the sky."

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or sokol@tampabay.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. A homeless Vietnam War veteran in Clearwater answers questions for a Pinellas County homeless survey. A shortage of affordable housing is considered a major cause of homelessness among vets in the Tampa Bay area. [Times files]
    Local agency leaders called on members of Congress to increase national affordable housing options as a solution to veteran homelessness
  2. A Coast Guard rescue swimmer drops from a helicopter during a training exercise off Honeymoon Island State Park in 2012. Jim Damaske
    The bizarre threat and fakes calls for help are being transmitted over marine radio. It sounds like the same man, the Coast Guard said.
  3. MacDill Air Force Base will observe a full-day, "resilience tactical pause'' Friday to address a growing number of suicides in the Air Force. Airmen will participate in team-building activities and small-group discussions on mental health. This is happening at military bases across the U.S.  [Times files].
    An estimated 78 airmen nationwide have taken their lives this year, prompting leaders to boost prevention efforts
  4. Dr. Dominick Gulli and Tammy Alsing recently launched Cope Well Counseling Associates at 415 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Brandon. ERIC VICIAN   | Special to the Times
    Dr. Dominick Gulli and Tammy Alsing recently opened their office at 415 Lithia Pinecrest Rd.
  5. Researchers from Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa participated in a newly released study that links post-traumatic stress disorder to ovarian cancer risk.
    A researcher from Moffitt Cancer Center participated in the study, which found that those with six or more symptoms of PTSD had double the risk of getting the disease.
  6. Capt. Joseph McGilley, commanding officer of Air Station Clearwater, center, gives an update on Wednesday about the air station's work in the hurricane-ravaged Bahamas. He stands inside a hangar on the Air Station Clearwater property in front of a Sikorsky MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, the same type being used in search and rescue efforts in the Bahamas. [JOSH SOLOMON   |   Times] JOSH SOLOMON  |  Josh Solomon, Tampa Bay Times
    Cargo planes, helicopters and people are all part of the effort.
  7. KC-135 Stratotankers will be evacuated from MacDill Air Force Case to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas ahead of Hurricane Dorian.  [Times]
    The aircraft are being sent to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas as a precaution with high winds projected during the storm
  8. A bulldozer dumps a load of trash into a burn pit 300 yards from the runway at Afghanistan's Bagram Airfield in this 2012 photo. The Pentagon later built a trash disposal plant at the busy military base but a number of crude burn pits, still spewing toxic fumes, remain in operation. [Mark Rankin] HOWARD ALTMAN  |  Mark Rankin
    A number of veterans have been locked out of VA medical care and disability benefits for illnesses that often are terminal.
  9. Medal of Honor recipient Ryan Pitts, right, speaks while Clinic Director Karen Blanchette, left, Michael Sullivan, a Cohen Veterans Network Board Member, center, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, look on during a ceremony Monday marking the opening of the Florida Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Aspire Health Partners in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times] "OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES"  |  Times
    The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Aspire Health Partners will fill mental health service gaps for veterans and their family members.
  10. The Veterans Resurgence Program inside the Falkenburg Road Jail houses up to 60 veterans who can receive resources and counseling while serving time. Courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
    Sheriff Chad Chronister’s Veterans Resurgence Program offers resources, counseling to incarcerated vets
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement