Spc. Brian K. Baker -- the quiet, unassuming young man killed in an explosion in Baghdad on Sunday -- was born, raised and schooled in Springville.
But he's going to be buried in Midland, Texas, so his stepson and unborn twin daughters can visit his grave and learn about his legacy.
Baker's wife of 13 months, Amy Roach Baker of Midland, is expecting identical twin girls in the next month or two.
"That's all we're going to have left of Brian," his stepmother, Holly Baker, said Tuesday of the unborn twins. "Amy wants Brian buried in Midland, so he can be close to his daughters. I'm sure that's what he'd want, too."
When Brian Baker, 27, learned they were expecting twins, he told his wife he was filled with a warm feeling, she told the Midland Reporter-Telegram.
"I hope they look like him, because I need to see him every day," she told the newspaper. "I just wish I could feel that (warm feeling) right now. I feel so empty."
An optimistic soldier
Baker enlisted in the Army on Nov. 6, 1996. He was killed eight years and one day later, during his second tour in Iraq.
He was conducting a security patrol, apparently on foot, when a vehicle pulled up next to him and exploded in Baghdad on Sunday afternoon, Army public affairs officials said.
The explosion occurred at 1:40 p.m. Baghdad time. He was rushed to a nearby combat support hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:45.
"It hurts so bad right now," Holly Baker said Tuesday. "It wasn't supposed to happen this way. He was supposed to come home."
Holly Baker, who raised Brian from the time he was 10 months old, described him as a wonderful kid, a very reserved person and an excellent student. She said he joined the Army after high school because he wasn't sure what he wanted to do with his life.
Baker's body will be flown to Washington, D.C., probably in the next few days, and then to Midland, where he will be buried, a family spokesman said. A memorial service will be held in the Springville area at a later date.
Baker -- who was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), from Fort Drum -- planned to make the Army his career, and his stepmother said he was extremely proud of what he and his fellow troops were doing in Iraq.
"He said people in Iraq wanted them over there so bad," she said. "He said not to believe what the media said. (The troops) saw firsthand that they were welcomed there, and they did a good job over there. The people of Iraq needed liberation."
Quiet, but an achiever
Baker graduated from Spring ville-Griffith Institute in 1996. He wasn't heavily involved in sports or extracurricular activities, and he apparently chose not to have a senior portrait in the school yearbook.
One Springville-Griffith official, after talking with teachers and staff members who knew him, described Baker as a quiet boy who never was in trouble and who compiled good grades.
"He had probably one of the biggest smiles I've ever seen -- and he always wore it," said Matthew Willibey, a family friend and chief of the East Concord Fire Department. Baker had been a charter member of the fire department's Explorer Group.
Following Baker's death, the East Concord Fire Department announced it will set up a trust fund for Baker's three children.
Willibey, who served as the family spokesman Tuesday, said family members wanted to extend their gratitude to Western New Yorkers for their support.
The Defense Department had announced that Baker was from West Seneca. That may have been because he enlisted through the West Seneca armed forces recruiting office, his family said.
Survivors, besides his wife, include his parents, Gregory G. and Holly of Springville; two brothers, Greg Jr. and Jesse; two sisters, Jenni (Jesse's twin) and Michele; and his 4-year-old stepson, Coletin of Midland.
"It's so hard to have it come to a tragic end like this," Holly Baker said. "I'm very proud of him. He did a wonderful thing."