SGT Ryan Baker
By Malissa, Ryan's Mom
Until June 2001, Ryan grew up mainly in East Springfield and Amsterdam, Ohio. He played Little League baseball and hung out with his friends like all kids. In 2001, he moved to the San Antonio, Texas area, but returned several times a year to visit relatives and friends. After graduating high school in 2007, Ryan joined the Marines, without his parent’s prior knowledge. Ryan proudly served his country in the Marine Corps from August 2007 through August 2011. He continued to serve in the inactive reserves, until his death. While on active duty, he served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ryan’s life-long dream was to become a pediatric dentist, which he started pursuing from the time his active duty commitment expired. When he returned home, he attended San Antonio College for 2 ½ years.
Throughout his life, Ryan always was the type of person that always wanted to help others. While still in high school, he volunteered as a junior firefighter at two local fire departments, then as a volunteer firefighter once he turned 18. He even volunteered while home on leave from the Marines. His heart was so big; his love for the elderly and children was the hallmark of his life. He would mow an elderly neighbor’s lawn then sit and talk with her for hours. He would gather his nieces and nephews on the spur of the moment and take them to the park and then for ice cream. Numerous neighbors always sought after Ryan to baby sit because of the trust they had and the love their children had for him.
When Ryan returned home, and began college, he joined several charities, to include The Proof Project and Habitat for Humanity. He donated blood and plasma regularly. He began working at South Eastern Freight Lines, where he quickly became a night shift supervisor. Unfortunately, when Ryan returned home from the Marines, he also brought home some additional baggage, in the form of PTSD. Nightmares increased in severity and frequency and he would thrash about, swinging his arms and kicking his legs violently. Ryan began living on Red Bull at night, just to stay awake to ward off the nightmares. Numerous family members and close friends spent countless hours talking with Ryan, trying to convince him to seek counseling. Ryan constantly refused, feeling that if he sought counseling, it would be viewed negatively on the career he was pursuing. No amount of discussion would convince him otherwise. Finally, Ryan did see a physician about his fear of going to sleep. The doctor prescribed him Ambien. He tried the Ambien for a few days, but then stopped taking it because, as Ryan put it, the medicine made him unable to wake up from his night terrors.
In April 2014, Ryan met the love of his life, Alisha (Ally). Along with Ally’s six year old daughter, Alana, they became inseparable. Ryan took on the role of a doting father, a role for which God had prepared him. On December 13, 2014, Ryan and Ally exchanged vows in a beautiful Texas Hill Country wedding. After the wedding, everyone was hopeful that the demons that haunted Ryan would be dismissed by the love and happiness he found. However, the nightmares continued to increase and become more severe. The PTSD, adjustment to married life, financial setbacks and other stressors began to escalate. Although he was coaxed by many to seek help he always refused, wanting to fight his battles on his own, on his own terms.
On August 5, 2015, Ryan and Ally were asleep in bed. Since they had been together, they kept the same sleep schedule, since Ryan worked nights, so they could spend more time together. During the early hours of that morning, Ryan had his most severe nightmare. While in a deep sleep, he began kicking Ally in the ribs and put his hands around her throat and squeezed. She managed to break away and eventually wake Ryan.
Ryan went to work that evening with a very heavy heart, constantly texting and calling to repeatedly apologize. Around midnight on August 6th, he tried calling Ally while on a break. Ally had fallen asleep and did not hear her phone ringing. Worried that she was hurt or possibly leaving him over what happened, Ryan left work and went home to check on Ally. Once, home they both went for a walk, during which they discussed the incident and Ally begged him to get help for the PTSD. Ryan told her he had all the help he needed right there. He then took her hand and placed it on his hip. She felt the butt of a pistol. Ally pulled away from him and began crying and begging him not to do anything. She told him they had Alana to think about. Being in shock of what was going on in front of her Ally closed her eyes, not knowing whether he was going to shoot her, himself or both of them. She then heard a loud snap, which she described as the sound made when someone is snapping the heels of their shoes together in a military formation. She then heard a single gunshot. She opened her eyes and Ryan was laying on the ground with a gunshot wound through his temple. Ally ran, screaming to a nearby apartment to have them call 911. The police and paramedics arrived and began caring for Ryan. But, it was too late. Ryan’s demons had won.
For anyone who may know someone or even are contemplating suicide themselves, this is not the answer. Ryan’s death killed his demons, but it unleashed others on his entire family and close friends. Every member of his family has experienced the agony of being notified of his death, which is relived constantly, not only in dreams, but in thoughts throughout every single day. His daughter sits and stares at his picture and talks to him just the same as if he was standing next to her. His nieces and nephews still talk about the things Uncle Ryan did with them and how much they wish he was here to do it again. His cousins still talk about him, have broken down in tears, and have said how he affected their lives in such a positive way. His brother is struggling in college due to a lack of focus caused by the loss of his brother. His other brother, a firefighter/EMT has not been sleeping because he feels guilt for not being there for Ryan, even though his job is to save lives.
As his Mother, I live with the thought everyday of losing a baby I brought into the world. I feel like a failure as a parent. Ryan’s death has caused me and my husband to seek counseling. Although I encouraged Ryan numerous times to get help for his PTSD, I feel I should have forced him to go, although I know he would have fought me on the issue. Anyone that knew Ryan understands he would never in a million years have done this if it hadn’t been for the contributing factors. He was the best uncle to my grandkids. Hide and go seek, Nerf guns, taking them to the park, waking them up to sneak a peek of the gifts Santa brought, waking them to watch a movie with him or play video games. These are just a few of the things he did to make us a family. They all loved him so much and this is why he became such a great dad to Alana. He would go out of his way to help family, friends and even strangers. Everyone says the one thing they remember most about Ryan was the huge smile he always had on his face. This is how I remember him; the best son, husband, father, grandson, brother, uncle, nephew cousin, friend, co-worker and Marine.
Ryan was a 2007 graduate of Wagner High School in Converse, Texas. Ryan honorably served his country in the United States Marine Corps, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan eras, where he attained the rank of Sergeant. He also attended college for dentistry in San Antonio, Texas. He gave back always in service of volunteering with local shelters and is missed and loved by so many.