Screaming Eagles Through Time
Spc. Ryan Travis Baker

Army Spc. Ryan T. Baker, 24, of Brown Mills, N.J.; assigned to the 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Nov. 15 when two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul, Iraq.

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'Gram' fondly remembers her grandson killed in Iraq
By Robert Kalinowski , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer 12/05/2003
Ryan Travis Baker, a 24-year-old Army specialist who was born in Wilkes-Barre, was among 17 United States soldiers who died on Nov. 15 in Mosul, Iraq, when two Black Hawk helicopters collided.

A private funeral service for Baker was held Tuesday in Pemberton Township, N.J.
His grandmother, Marlous Baker, 80, still lives on Park Avenue in Wilkes-Barre.

Baker lived in Wilkes-Barre just a short time, his grandmother said.

After two tough weeks of grieving with family and friends in New Jersey she returned home on Wednesday.
Scattered across her kitchen table lie pictures of her grandson - her "little boy" - known by most as Travis.
Sometimes smiling and sometimes tearing up, overflowing with pride and sadness, she flipped through the photos on Thursday.

She paused and intensely stared at one of them for a few moments.
There was Travis, prim in his Army fatigues, kicking back and joking with fellow soldiers in Iraq - like he didn't have a care in the world.

Although words began to come out of her mouth, it really was a grandmother's aching heart talking.
"He was always smiling, always happy. He was just a wonderful boy," she lamented about the tragedy. "Time will heal, but I'll never forget him."

Continuing to shuffle through the pictures, she came across some of when Travis was a youngster.

She began to chuckle and pointed to a picture of a bright-eyed Travis playing in a cardboard box in her Wilkes-Barre home.

It made her reminisce of the times he would visit.
Mrs. Baker and her late husband, Edwin, often would pick up Travis in New Jersey and bring him back to Wilkes-Barre.
He enjoyed going to the playground near GAR High School and the Coal Street Pool, she said.

They would go for walks around Public Square, go to the movies or take day trips to tourist attractions in the Poconos - whatever Travis wanted.

"He was here a lot. He just liked to be here, and he loved to be with us," she said, smiling about good times they shared.
Although they lived miles apart, he would always call his "Gram" to keep in touch, she said.

Once Travis completed the JROTC program at Pemberton High School in New Jersey, he joined the Army.
After basic training, he was selected to become a Screaming Eagle in the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.
"He called me and said, 'Gram, I'm going to be a Screaming Eagle. It's an honor to be one of them, Gram,'" she recalled him boasting.

"He was a very proud person," she said, clutching another picture of him in military dress.
She considered him an unselfish and dedicated person as well.

In October, he was granted a leave of absence from the Iraq war after his father, Mrs. Baker's son, Dane, died from a heart attack.
Dane Baker was a 12-year Navy veteran. Travis always admired the dedication his father had towards his country, she said.

While mourning the untimely death of his dad, Travis started worrying about his comrades in Iraq, she said.
Mrs. Baker had many sit-down conversations with Travis at his home in New Jersey during that time.
"'Gram, I got to get out of here. I have to get back there to help,'" she recalled him saying when watching the news about the war.

Eleven days after he returned to Iraq, Travis was killed when a Black Hawk helicopter he was riding in collided with another helicopter. The soldiers were trying to rescue wounded and fallen comrades in Mosul, Iraq.

Travis was a Black Hawk helicopter crew chief and gunner for the Fourth Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.
"He knew the mission," said Mrs. Baker. "It was his responsibility to make sure that chopper was in good condition and it always was."

She said the military life, even with all its dangers, was what Travis always wanted.
"He was doing what he wanted to do and what he loved to do, and he did it very well," she said.
He was a soldier that the military could always depend on, she said.

Travis was among the few elite military men and women who were chosen to be an escort for Secretary of State Colin Powell when he visited Iraq.

He was on the front lines when the United States and coalition forces secured the airport in Baghdad and when Uday and Qusay Hussein, sons of Saddam Hussein, were killed.
The Army posthumously awarded him a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and various other citations.

"He wasn't looking for glory. When he received a citation, he would just put it aside and continue to do his job. I'm very proud of what he did for his country," she said.
Besides his grandmother, Travis leaves behind his 2-year-old son, Tristan Baker-Willis; mother, Victoria; brother, Lucas, 23; sister, Jamie, 21, and many other family members.
Mrs. Baker plans to make a scrapbook for Tristan in memory of Travis.

"I want Tristan to remember his daddy for everything he did."
ŠThe Citizens Voice 2003

Soldier's death brings second tragedy to New Jersey family
Associated Press

When Ryan Baker left home to return to Iraq a week and a half ago, his last words to his mother were to not worry about him.

The 24-year-old Army specialist had returned to Burlington County to mourn the death of his father, Dane, who passed away on Oct. 4.

But Saturday, tragedy again visited the Baker family when Ryan was killed in the crash of two Black Hawk helicopters over Mosul.

Seventeen soldiers were killed and five were injured in the crash, which was the worst single-incident death toll since the war began.

Baker was one of five servicemen identified Sunday by the Department of Defense.

Baker's uncle, Michael Ewing, said his nephew was itching to return to Iraq and to the other members of the 101st Airborne Division assigned to his Black Hawk, who referred to him affectionately as "Bake."

"He told us when he left, 'We will get Saddam,'" Ewing told The Courier-Post of Cherry Hill.

Known to family and friends by his middle name, Travis, Baker served as a gunner and crew chief, a mechanic's position. He joined the Army after graduating from Pemberton High School in 1997.

Baker came from a military family. His father spent 12 years in the Navy and was in the Mediterranean when Baker was born, relatives said.

According to his uncle, Baker spent 10 months in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, and helicopter crews regularly requested him as a gunner for missions.

Baker returned to his home base at Fort Campbell, Ky., briefly before shipping out to Iraq in March.

His sister, Jamie, 21, and brother, Lucas, 23, were at the family's house in the Browns Mills section of Pemberton Sunday. Baker's mother, Victoria, was too upset to speak to reporters, Ewing said.

"She just buried her husband and now she's got to bury her baby," said Monica Ewing, Baker's aunt. "How much can a woman take?"

Local soldier crash casualty

Monday, November 17, 2003

By BRIAN X. McCRONE
Staff Writer

PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP - Browns Mills native Ryan Travis Baker, an Army specialist with the 101st Airborne Division, was one of 17 soldiers killed Saturday when two Black Hawk helicopters collided in northern Iraq, the Department of Defense said yesterday.

Baker, 24, the crew chief aboard one of the helicopters, had been in Iraq since March, his family said.

He was one of five soldiers whose identities were released yesterday as among the 17 killed in the crash near the northern city of Mosul. All 17 soldiers who perished were with the 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., officials said.

"Our worst fears have been answered," Baker's uncle Michael Ewing said. "We would always tune to the news when something would happen, but now the family's just in shock."

Baker graduated from Pemberton Township High School in 1997 and joined the Army almost six years ago, his uncle said.

"He was near finishing his six-year tour (of duty)," Ewing said. "But he most likely would have re-enlisted again."

His mother, Virginia Baker, who lives in Browns Mills was too distraught yesterday to comment. His brother, Luke Baker, and sister, Jamie Cavaliere, also live in Browns Mills and were home with their mother yesterday, Ewing said.

Baker is survived by a two-year-old son, Tristen, who lives in Tennessee with his birth mother.

"We're all trying to cope," said Ewing from the family home on Press Avenue. "He was never afraid. He told us when he came home last month, `Don't worry about me, I'll be fine.' "

Baker returned home in early October to attend the funeral of his father, Dane Baker, who died of a heart attack Oct. 3, then returned to Iraq.

"(Ryan's) mother had just put him back on the plane on the fourth (Nov. 4)," Ewing said. "He said as he was leaving that he couldn't wait to get back to his boys. Those boys were probably with him on that helicopter."

Ryan Baker, who often was called by his middle name, Travis, followed his father's footsteps into the military.

Dane Baker served in the Navy for 12 years. He was aboard the USS Saratoga during the Vietnam War.

Originally from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Dane Baker settled his family in Browns Mills.

"Travis grew up here (in Browns Mills), spent his whole life here," Ewing said.

Before going overseas, Baker lived in Clarkesville, Ky., near Fort Campbell where he had been stationed since joining the 101st Airborne.

"He was a member of the ROTC program at his high school and didn't know what to do after graduating. His mother said `there's nothing around here, so why not check out (the military),' " Ewing said. "One day he came home and said he'd enlisted for six years."

Baker spent 10 months in Afghanistan before going to Iraq.

As a specialist, he was the crew chief of the Black Hawk helicopter.

William McClure, a neighbor of the Bakers on Press Avenue, remembered Travis Baker as always being a very nice young man.

"This is pretty tough," McClure said. "They've always been good neighbors. We've known (the Bakers) since they moved here over 20 years ago."

McClure remembered a story that Dane Baker had told him when Travis first arrived in Iraq.

"He was stationed at Baghdad Airport right as they were taking it because his family hadn't heard from him in a while and then one day he called from a telephone at the airport," McClure said. "He was right in the thick of it."

No funeral arrangements have been made yet, Ewing said.

None of the other soldiers identified yesterday were New Jersey residents.

They are Sgt. Michael D. Acklin II, 25, of Louisville, Ky.; Spc. William D. Dusenbery, 30, of Fairview Heights, Ill.; Sgt. Warren S. Hansen, 36, of Clintonville, Wis.; and Spc. Eugene A. Uhl III, 21, of Amherst, Wis.

The crash raises to 53 the number of 101st members killed in the war in Iraq.

Tributes paid to S.J. soldier killed in Iraq

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

By JIM WALSH
Courier-Post Staff
PEMBERTON BOROUGH

On a street gaily lit by Christmas decorations, mourners gathered Monday night to pay their respects to a local soldier who died in a distant war.

"It's just tragic," said John Mocci of Pemberton Township, who stood near a twinkling Santa Claus as he discussed the loss of Army Spc. Ryan Travis Baker.

"We should be proud there are people like him, willing to give their lives for our country," said Mocci, a teacher who knew Baker as a student at Pemberton Township High School.

Baker, a 24-year-old native of Pemberton Township, was among 17 soldiers who died Nov. 15 when two Black Hawk helicopters collided over Mosul in northern Iraq. U.S. officials on Sunday said the collision may have been caused by enemy fire.

For four hours, people who knew Baker or simply wanted to honor him walked solemnly into the Lankenau Funeral Home here. They hunched their shoulders against a cold wind that blew through bare trees - and, often, they cried.

"It's like losing a brother almost," said Gerard Boyle, Baker's friend since childhood.

"I'm feeling sadness, but a little bit of anger, too," said Boyle, a Navy petty officer first class currently assigned to Lakehurst, Ocean County.

"I wish I could be over there (in the war zone)," he said.

The Rev. Evine Shannon of Willingboro, whose stepson, Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Hemingway, 39, was killed by an Iraqi suicide bomber in April, came to console another parent feeling the same grief.

"I told her I know what she's going through," he said of Baker's mother, Victoria. "I told her to trust in God."

Like several mourners, Shannon expressed dismay over the continuing toll for U.S. personnel in Iraq.

"I pray to God this war will be over," he said. "The president of the United States said the war was over, but more people have been killed since then. If the president had his own kids over there, he'd understand better."

For the most part, mourners arrived in small numbers that did not overflow the funeral home. William Parker of Manchester, Ocean County, led a group of some 15 people from New Jersey's Chapter 2 of Rolling Thunder, a motorcycle club devoted to veterans' issues.

"We're here for Ryan's mom," he said as the group stood outside the funeral home. "She needs our support."

Baker, who had a 2-year-old son, is to be buried today in Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Arneytown. The 101st Airborne Division crew chief will be laid to rest beside his father, Dane, a Navy veteran who died of natural causes last month.

Baker's mother last saw him when he come home for his father's funeral.

"They're a strong family," Boyle, the sailor, said of the Bakers. "They're going to get through this."


Reach Jim Walsh at (856) 486-2646 or jwalsh@courierpostonline.com