RAMADI, Iraq -- Cpl. Daniel R. Stanaland remembers his friend as hard working, loyal, and athletic.
He was the hard-headed person that everyone loved.
“I’ve never met a person quite like Riley whether it was fishing, hunting or on the battlefield with rounds flying over our head,” said Stanaland, “he was always smiling that big school-boy smile that he had.”
On June 28, Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment gathered for a memorial service in the Morale, Welfare Recreation Center at Hurricane Point to remember one of their “fallen heroes.”
Cpl. Riley E. Baker, a 22-year-old scout sniper and team leader from Pacific, Mo., was killed by an improvised explosive device during combat operations on June 22 in Ramadi, Iraq.
Baker was with Scout Sniper Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company.
Marines described him as someone who epitomized the best qualities of a Marine.
“Cpl. Baker is a Marine who seemed to know and touch everyone somehow,” said Capt. Lester R. Gerber, a 31-year-old from Richmond, VA. “Like most scout snipers he was outspoken at times yet he coupled it with an infectious sense of humor, and was motivated to perform well beyond expectations.”
“His death occurred in the midst of performing as a leader of Marines through his evaluation of his teammate’s safety under hostile enemy fire,” he said.
His love was for the state of Missouri, his job, country music, and a passion for John Wayne movies stood out the most among his peers.
“There was a bit of John Wayne’s reflection in his personality. But mostly he cared for his teammates. He always put his teammates over his own,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin D. Morris, in a speech during the ceremony. “He never needed a leader, he always took the right actions without guidance. He was a warrior and his spirit will burn in the hearts of his brothers forever.”
Battalion commander, Lt. Col Stephen M. Neary, described Baker as a true impact player.
“Riley knew he might be called upon to pay that price, that sacrifice, to make his county safe,” said Neary, 40, from Boston, Mass. “He understood this and throughout our work up and our deployment here together he was part of a great team known as the scout sniper team.”
“He was a man who went out and tried to be the best he could be. We can learn from his example because everyone wants to be associated with people who set and maintain high standards,” he said.
Baker joined the scout snipers in 2005. He traveled with the battalion to Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif. for their month-long combined training exercise known as “Mojave Viper.” He excelled in the training and was meritoriously promoted to the rank of corporal in March before leaving Camp Lejuene, N.C., to Ramadi.
“Despite his relative youth, it was refreshing to watch him step into a platoon and assume a leadership position in a platoon that was marked by its own youth but overall enthusiasm,” said Gerber during the ceremony.
“His example and drive was clear throughout the rigorous preparations they put themselves through before coming to Ramadi,” he said.
Gerber told the audience that Baker’s constant professionalism was not only an asset to Task Force 3/8, he was an asset to the whole Marine Expeditionary Force operating in Iraq.
Baker led his team through 16 reconnaissance and surveillance operations. He also took part in two direct action missions and worked endless hours providing security at fixed site and security positions.
“The brotherhood we share with our fellow marines is the driving force behind the heroic actions we see in combat,” said Morris.
Stanaland fought back tears as he described Baker as one of the best Marines, sniper and friends he has ever seen or been around.
“He would want us to pick up our packs and keep on trucking,” said Stanaland. “Riley was scared of nothing. If you were in his way, he moved you. If you asked of him, he would help you, and if you were trusted by him or ever needed anything, he would be there for you.”
“He’s in heaven smiling down on us and he’s an angle in over watch. He will look over us and protect us,” added Stanaland.
During the ceremony, Cpl. Matthew E. Bucceri played “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipes. Teammates put together the traditional memorial by placing a helmet on Baker’s Sniper rifle along with his boots and dog tags. Words were shared from friends, and each Marine, Sailor, and Soldier who attended the service also paid their last respects with a final salute to the fallen Marine’s memorial.
Baker joined the Marine Corps February of 2004. He completed the Basic Infantryman Course and Rifleman Course the same year. He reported to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment where he deployed to Fallujah, Iraq in 2005. He graduated from the Scout Sniper Course in 2006.
His awards include the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.