A Tribute to an American Hero
The picture is striking. He is standing on a hill in full army gear – fatigues, helmet, gloves, holding his gun with the mountainous Afghanistan countryside as the backdrop. The thing that immediately grabs your attention is his face. He has a sweet face, with kind, gentle features. The second thing you notice is how young he looks. Itâ€™s easy to imagine him as someoneâ€™s son, brother, best friend, sweetheart. The photo is also striking because of the sense of familiarity. That maybe, somehow, you had met him, talked to him, knew him. And maybe you did. If youâ€™ve ever shopped at the Target Store at First Colony Center then you may have met him: he started off as one of Targetâ€™s original employees – Starting off as a cart boy â€“ the only job he could get at 16. He then worked his way up to cashier and customer service; maybe he helped you find an item in the sporting goods isle; perhaps he rang up your purchase at the register with a pleasant smile. Ryan worked for Target from the time the store opened to the day he went to boot camp.
Ryan was born near Cincinnati, Ohio. He moved with his mother, a civilian nurse with the Defense Department, to Germany when he was five. He attended American and international schools and excelled in sports such as baseball and soccer. He moved with his family to Great Mills when he was 12 and attended Esperanza Middle School and Great Mills High School where he graduated in 2003. Many people remember him from soccer â€“ both as a player and an umpire for Parks & Recreation. He was active and involved in the world around him. He was very competitive in everything he did and had a good sense of humor. â€œOverall just a really great kidâ€ said his mother, Cindy Lohman.
He was also very creative â€“ he loved photography and was good at it. As a senior at Great Mills, he won a photography award. You may have even seen his work â€“he took the majority of the photographs used in the â€œGet Out and Walk! A St. Maryâ€™s Guide to Walking for Fun and Fitnessâ€. Three Nursing Students â€“ Gail Gromen, Trish Lackwitz and Ryanâ€™s mother, Cindy Lohman designed the guide for their community health project to complete their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. When Cindy Lohman asked Ryan if he could help out with the photography he was so excited he took leave and drove up from Fort Campbell, Kentucky before he left for Iraq. The Health Department just did a reprinting of the booklet. Lori Sides, his photography teacher at Great Mills said â€œHe was the kind of student teachers hope for. He was dedicated and motivated. He really cared about othersâ€.
While living oversees as a young child, he lived near an American military base and identified with the troops and their sense of commitment. When the terrorists attacks of September 11th occurred, Ryan wanted to do everything he could for his country. He enlisted in the Army in May 2004. He believed in honor and valor and defending your country. He really wanted to be assigned to one of the airborne divisions and was ecstatic when he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, 4th Brigade Combat Team (4BCT). His goal was to be career, and was considering the green-to-gold program â€“ a program that allows young enlisted soldiers an opportunity to return to college and earn their degree and a commission as an army officer. His first deployment was to Baghdad, the capital of Iraq in November, 2005 â€“ returning November 2006. His last deployment was to Afghanistan on March 24, 2008. â€œHe loved the people in Iraq because they thanked him and appreciated him – and he felt he was making a difference. That pushed him to go to Afghanistan. He loved the United States and he loved what he was doingâ€ said Ryanâ€™s fiancÃ© Lauren Smith of Ridge.
He loved everything about being in the army and really felt what they were doing made a difference. His creative and competitive nature served the army well. He was always thinking of ways to improve things. Some of his last calls back were to discuss in detail suggestions he had for improving communications in noisy situations like convoys. A week before the incident that took his life Ryan was in the right front passenger seat of the lead vehicle of his convoy when it struck an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). That explosion blew off the front end of the humvee. Ryan died August 1 on Route Alaska when his humvee hit an IED. According to accounts, his unit was going downhill in the vehicle when Ryan saw the IED. He called out for the driver to stop, but it was impossible to stop the downhill momentum of the humvee. When he realized there was no way to avoid it, he told the driver to veer left thereby positioning the IED under himself and taking the brunt of the explosion. He was the only one in his vehicle to die. He is survived by his fiancÃ© Lauren Smith, sister Christie Baumann, his father Robert Baumann of Jeffersonville, Indiana, step-father Gary Lohman and mother Cindy Lohman, and countless friends. Thousands of Southern Maryland residents lined the procession route from funeral services in Leonardtown to Arlington National Cemetery.
In the days, weeks and months after his death, internet message boards were flooded with messages, tributes and condolences from people whose lives he touched and inspired. He endeared people to him with his personality and his sense of purpose – leaving a legacy of love, courage, and inspiration. He exemplified â€“ and stood for – all that was good. And that is a gift he gave all of us.
The Run & Fun Walk for Hospice is honored to dedicate the 2009 Defenderâ€™s Cup Competition in memory and tribute of Ryan Patrick Baumann.