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David Raymond Baker
Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps
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U .S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 821-09
October 21, 2009

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lance Corporal David R. Baker, 22, of Painesville, Ohio, died October 20, 2009, while supporting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California.

For additional background information about this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 1st Marine Division public affairs office at (760) 725-8766.



21 October 2009:

A local Marine was killed Tuesday in Afghanistan.

Lance Corppral David Raymond Baker, 22, of Painesville Township, Ohio, was killed by an improvised explosive device, according to his family.

DR Baker PHOTO

Baker was killed Tuesday in the Helmand Province of south Afghanistan. He was a mortar man for the First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment. It was his first tour in Afghanistan.

He is survived by his father, Mark Baker, his mother, Laurie Lewkowski, brother, also Mark, and twin sisters, Lauren and Taylor Genovese.

David Baker was 18 and a recent graduate from Riverside High School when he joined the Marines. The military matured him and forced him to focus, his family said.

“You could just see the transformation of his personality from being a shy boy into a young man because of his tour of duty in the Marines,” his uncle Jim Baker said.

David Baker turned 22 on October 1, 2009. Before his birthday, he called friends and family, making plans for his expected Christmas visit.

“He called his friends, his grandma and grandpa, his cousins,” Mark Baker said. “He had access to a satellite phone and he called everybody. Maybe, in hindsight, that was his way of saying good-bye.”



22 October 2009:

Marine Lance Corpora. David Raymond Baker gave his mother a stuffed bear from the Fairport Harbor Mardi Gras so she could hear his voice, even when he was in Afghanistan.

Whenever she squeezed the bear, his voice answered, “Hey Mom, I miss you. I love you very much, with all my heart. I’ll be home soon, please don’t be upset. I love you.”

Baker, 22, of Painesville Township, was killed by an improvised explosive device Tuesday in the Helmand Province of south Afghanistan. He was a mortar man for the First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment. It was his first tour in Afghanistan.

He is survived by his father, Mark Baker, his mother, Laurie Lewkowski, brother, also named Mark Baker, and twin sisters, Lauren and Taylor Genovese.

The shy guy

David Baker didn’t like attention, his family said.

“He was very shy, very reserved, one of those guys who didn’t like the spotlight on him,” his father said.

“We thought he was never going to talk,” his grandmother Marlene Baker said of David as a young child.

“His brother did all the talking for him and got everything for him. They were so different. Mark was so outgoing. David was quiet and reserved.”

David Baker was 18 and a recent graduate of Riverside High School when he joined the Marines. The military matured him and forced him to focus, his family said.

“You could just see the transformation of his personality from being a shy boy into a young man because of his tour of duty in the Marines,” his uncle Jim Baker said.

During boot camp, David Baker questioned his choice to join the Marines.

“He was very homesick and very much missing his family. He very much wanted to come home,” his father said.

But David Baker grew to accept his responsibility. When he went on security rounds in Afghanistan, he would volunteer to take the point.

As the first vehicle in a convoy, this left him exposed. When his family asked him why he would put himself in danger, he told them, “That’s my job.”

He explained to his grandfather — a retired Army colonel, also named Jim Baker — that taking the point allowed him to control the tempo of the security rounds. By going first, he could do a thorough job and prevent someone else from stumbling on a land mine.

David Baker turned 22 on October 1. Before his birthday, he called friends and family, making plans for his expected Christmas visit.

“He called his friends, his grandma and grandpa, his cousins,” his father said. “He had access to a satellite phone and he called everybody. Maybe, in hindsight, that was his way of saying goodbye.”

Jim Baker said he noticed a change in his grandson when they spoke.

“When he left, he was a kid. When I talked to him on the telephone, he was a man, a fully matured one. Combat will do that to you. First one that goes across your ear and you hear that ‘snap,’ you know this is for real. The targets are now shooting back at you,” he said.

The joker

David Baker was a practical joker. He once convinced his younger sister, Lauren, to eat grass.

“He told me rain was salad dressing and the grass was salad,” she remembered.

Lauren smiled as she recalled the grass story but teared as she talked about David.

“He was my best friend,” she said. “He was the person I could go to for guidance.”

Three flags fly in Laurie Lewkowski’s yard: the Marine, Army and American flags. In addition to David, his brother, Mark, served as a chemical/biological incident response specialist for the Marines and was discharged for medical reasons. Lauren, 19, is a member of the Army Reserves.

In Lewkowski’s home, a mug sat on an end table in the living room. It had three lines of text: Marine Mom, USMC, Always Faithful. In a nearby hallway, Lewkowski cried for her son.

“I have the biggest hole in my heart,” she said. “I don’t know what to do. My heart is just broken.”

The family learned about David’s death Tuesday afternoon.

“When I saw the Marines, I knew,” his sister, Taylor, said. “They wouldn’t say anything until mom got home, but I knew.”

“It’s gut-wrenching information,” his uncle, Jim Baker, said. “You read the news. You read about this every day, what’s going on in Afghanistan and Iraq. You’re detached from it because it’s not personalized. When it’s personalized, it’s just devastating.”

David Baker’s body is expected to be flown into Dover, Delaware, today. His family plans to bury him in Arlington National Cemetery after a local funeral.

The hero

David preferred to be in the background, his father said — except, that is, when he took point on patrol.

“He’s a hero,” the elder Mark Baker said. “He didn’t have to die in Afghanistan to be my hero, though.”

Laurie Lewkowski had wanted to surprise her son when he visited this December. She hoped to meet him in Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he was stationed, but she didn’t have the money to buy a plane ticket.

She called a Geneva-based country music radio station and told her plight to a DJ. People heard her and donated money until she had enough for a ticket, her husband, Karl Lewkowski, said.

“She was going to surprise him, but it’s not going to be,” he said.

“Say that he was a hero,” Laurie Lewkowski told the reporters who had gathered in her living room.

Jim Baker served in the Army and Central Intelligence Agency. He was a prisoner of war for 13 1/2 months. He marvels that he survived all that but his grandson didn’t live to see 23.

“He had a crucifix on his back,” his grandfather said. “I asked him why he got it there, and he said, ‘Because Jesus has got my back.’ That told me a lot about his character.”


23 October 2009:

A day after learning Marine Lance Corporal David Raymond Baker made the ultimate sacrifice, local residents who knew him continue to honor and remember the young man from Painesville Township.

Baker, 22, was killed by an improvised explosive device Tuesday in the Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan. He joined the Marines shortly after graduating from Riverside High School in 2006.

Riverside Principal William Wade remembers him well, describing Baker as a strong student, very bright and very witty.

"I had the pleasure of getting to know David very well as his freshman baseball coach," he said. "He had a big heart and gave 110 percent. He always made the team laugh, and he made me laugh."

Wade recalled he and Baker developed a bond through conversations in the dugout, and that their bond lasted through Baker's graduation in 2006.

"Every time I saw David he had a smile on his face. He was a great person, good-natured and very bright," Wade said. "We are all shocked and saddened by the loss of one of our students. I will always remember David for his good-natured personality and smile that lit up a room. He and his family are in my thoughts and prayers."

Baker was honored Thursday with a moment of silence during the school's morning announcements, after which Wade received several e-mails regarding Baker.

"Which confirmed David was a great kid and a great student," he said.

Said Superintendent James Kalis: "David was well-liked and respected by all those who knew him, and the school community has been profoundly impacted by his untimely passing, particularly because of his young age and vitality. He will be remembered as a remarkable young man who truly enjoyed life and the company of others."

Wade said that South High School Principal Paul Lombardo contacted him to say South would honor Baker with a moment of silence before kickoff of tonight's football game between the Rebels and Beavers in Willoughby.

Riverside also plans to fly its flag at half-staff on the day funeral services are held, and administrators are putting together something on the school Web site that will honor Baker's service, Wade said.

Plans for a local funeral service are still in the works, as Baker's family spent Thursday in Dover, Del., awaiting their son's and brother's return.

Baker was a mortar man for the First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment and on his first tour in Afghanistan. Wendy Delisio, a trustee at Colonel Justice M. Chambers Detachment 555 of Mentor, remembers meeting Baker when he was a new recruit just out of high school.

"I remember when he was a 'poolee,' " she said. "I talked to him. ... You look at him and you think, 'There's a young man,' and then you think of our fathers and grandfathers because they were young (when they enlisted), too."

Delisio also knows Baker's mother, Laurie Lewkowski.

"She's a total 'Marine mom' — she knows everything there is to know about the Marines," said Delisio, who also remembered a time when Lewkowski helped put together care packages for troops.

"We talked, and she said, 'If you pack boxes, I want to be here.' And she did that. She came in here and packed over 80 boxes with my father one day," Delisio said. "She's a very nice lady — the whole family is nice. I feel so bad."

Also grieving for Baker is someone who knows all too well what the young Marine's family is going through: Donna Harmon, whose 20-year-old son, Cpl. Joshua S. Harmon, of Mentor-on-the-Lake, died along with 13 other U.S. Army soldiers when the helicopter transporting them crashed on Aug. 22, 2007, in Iraq.

"I was upset the whole day when I heard about it because I know what the family is going through and what they're going to go through forever," Harmon said. "It changes your life completely.

"I live with it every day," she said. "What I've learned is that they're never coming back. You'll never get over it, but you'll learn to live with it and get through your daily life."


24 October 2009:

EASTLAKE, Ohio - Funeral Arrangements have been finalized for fallen U.S. Marine Lance Corporal David Raymond Baker.

Calling Hours are set for Friday, October 30, 2009, from 2:00 P.M. until 8:00 P.M. at Monreal Funeral Home, located at 35400 Curtis Blvd. in Eastlake, Ohio.

Funeral services are set for Saturday, October 31, 2009, at 11:00 A.M. at the Zion Lutheran Church, located at 508 Mentor Ave. in Painesville, Ohio.

Lance Corporal Baker will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.


Green Beret, Marine honored
Casualties of fighting in Afghanistan are laid to rest in Arlington
By Annie Gowen
Courtesy of The Washington Post
Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Malaki Mills, who turned 1 last week, sat on his mother's knee at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday and waved a tiny American flag in the crisp fall air. A little while later, a sober Army soldier gave him a larger flag to keep -- in honor of his father, Joshua M. Mills, an Army Green Beret killed in Afghanistan.

Staff Sergeant Mills, 24, of El Paso, who died in September, was one of two servicemen buried with full military honors Tuesday at Arlington, laid to rest to the mournful sound of taps and the crack of a rifle salute. The other, Lance Corporal David R. Baker, 22, a Marine from Painesville, Ohio, died October 20 in Afghanistan. He was on foot patrol in Helmand province when a bomb exploded nearby, his father said.

Mills, the son of an Army warrant officer, was so anxious to join the military that he dropped out of the University of Texas at El Paso to enlist in 2005, family members said. He was strong, single-minded and a careful student of history, and ultimately he was selected to join the Green Berets, the Army's elite Special Forces branch.

Mills's wife, Magen, 21, said that as a Communications Sergeant with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, her husband had been sent on missions to Guatemala and Afghanistan before he was deployed to Afghanistan again in August. She last heard from him via a text message a few days before he and two other soldiers died Sept. 16, after their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

She was on her way to see the Dallas Cowboys, his favorite team.

"He said, 'I love you and be safe,' Magen Mills recalled. "It wasn't his voice, but it was him."

She said she first glimpsed her "gorgeous" husband while still a high school student, when he pulled up in his copper-colored Camaro at her high school softball game. When they later started dating, they realized quickly how much they had in common: love of country music, "Friends" reruns and dark chocolate. The couple settled in Raeford, North Carolina, just outside Fort Bragg, shortly after their wedding in 2007.

"He was all about family, he was all about his country, his job and his friends," she said. "I don't know the perfect words. Josh had an affect on people I'm just beginning to see."

Lance Corporal Baker grew up in a small community on the shores of Lake Erie, said his father, Mark Baker, 52, a chemist.

The young man with the fringe of dark hair was so shy and unassuming as a child that he was always in the background in family photos and had to be cajoled into having a birthday party, Mark Baker said. But as early as sixth grade, David Baker was vowing to become a Marine. He enlisted shortly after graduating from Riverside High School in 2006.

He was terribly homesick at boot camp and while stationed at Camp Pendleton in California. But something in him changed after he was deployed in May to Afghanistan as a "mortar man" in the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

Where once he had been tentative, he now sounded calm and confident, his grandfather, James Baker, recalled this week. But members of his family worried when they learned that he was leading patrols through Helmand province's dangerous terrain.

"I said, 'Why are you always out front?' " Mark Baker recalled. "He flat-out told me, 'Dad, it's my job.' "

David Baker had hoped to be back in the United States by Christmas, and he dreamed of attending college after his tour was up next year. He had told them so when he made a round of calls to his grandparents, friends and other family in late September on a satellite phone.

"He's never done that before," Baker said. "In hindsight, it was almost like he was saying goodbye."

At Baker's service, the U.S. Marine Band played a mournful version of "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" as military officials presented folded flags to Mark Baker and his former wife, Laurie A. Lewkowski. Lewkowski rocked back and forth as she held hers, the last remnant of her dead son.
 

DR Baker Funeral Services @ Arlington National Cemetery 3 November 2009
A horse drawn caisson transports the casket of Marine Lance Corporal David R. Baker at his 
burial services at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday, November 3, 2009

DR Baker Funeral Services @ Arlington National Cemetery 3 November 2009
Laurie A. Lewkowski, second left, and Mark C. Baker, sixth from left, the mother and father of Marine Lance 
Corporal David R. Baker, attend his burial services at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday, November 3, 2009

DR Baker Funeral Services @ Arlington National Cemetery 3 November 2009
Laurie A. Lewkowski, left, and Mark C. Baker, right, the parents of Marine Lance Corporal David R. Baker, 
are overcome with emotion at his burial services at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday, November 3, 2009.

DR Baker Funeral Services @ Arlington National Cemetery 3 November 2009
Laurie A. Lewkowski, center, the mother of Marine Lance Corporal David R. Baker, is overcome with emotion 
during the playing of 'Taps' at his burial services at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday, November 3, 2009

DR Baker Funeral Services @ Arlington National Cemetery 3 November 2009
Laurie A. Lewkowski, left, the mother of Marine Lance Corpral David R. Baker, is overcome with emotion as she is 
presented with the flag by Marine Sergeant Major Sylvester D. Daniels, at his burial services at Arlington National 
Cemetery Tuesday, November 3, 2009

DR Baker Gravesite PHOTO @ Arlington National Cemetery November 2009

DR Baker Gravesite PHOTO December 2009
  Photo By Thomas Gugiluzza-Smith ("Gug") November & December 2009

Webmaster: Michael Robert Patterson


Posted: 25 October 2009 Updated: 3 November 2009 Updated: 4 November 2009 Updated: 7 December 2009 Updated 14 December 2009
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