by Argie Sarantinos, DEVCOM Headquarters
Amber and Ryan Baum met in Texas where they both attended Combat Medic school. To honor Ryan’s legacy after he was killed by an enemy sniper while on dismounted patrol in Iraq, Amber began volunteering for various military organizations, focusing on organizations that supported Gold Star Families.
Leia Ryan Baum started volunteering when she was five years old including planting trees and cleaning trash during area beautification events, collecting time cards at Maryland Special Olympic events, as well as other efforts during the past ten years. Here, she hands out water bottles at Aberdeen Proving Ground’s Run to Remember 5K, Maryland.
Thomas Bohne and Amber Baum at a fundraiser for Kennel to Couch, which began in 2019. Its mission is two-fold – prevent pit bulls from being euthanized and eliminate the stereotype about the breed.
Leia Ryan Baum during a Gold Star Teen Adventures Warrior Weekend, which provides mentorship, leadership development, resilience training and team building for children who coping with a sudden loss of a parent in the military.
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — For Amber Baum, serving her country and giving back to her community is a way of life. She was just 17 years old when she joined the Army as a combat medic. While stationed in Texas, she met her husband, Ryan, who was also in the Army. The couple married in 2005, and moved to Fort Richardson, Alaska, for their next assignment. Her life took a turn in 2007, when Ryan was killed by an enemy sniper while on dismounted patrol in Iraq.
“I volunteer a lot for military organizations because they gave me strength and helped me to walk when I wasn’t able to,” said Baum, who is now an executive assistant in the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or DEVCOM’s, C5ISR Center.
Baum exemplifies the qualities of a good volunteer, contributing a generous amount of time to various organizations. She has traveled to numerous countries to help impoverished communities by building playgrounds, schools and houses — all in honor of her husband. She is also an active member of the Aberdeen Proving Ground community where she works with military and Gold Star Families.
Baum’s daughter, Leia Ryan — who was born only 10 days after her dad made the ultimate sacrifice — is a champion for physical and mental health. She started volunteering when she was young, handing out water bottles at races and wearing T-shirts with her dad’s name painted on them. She also shares her mother’s love of pit bulls, including Rocky, a pit bull they found abandoned at the side of the road.
“Our lives were changed forever when we found Rocky. We had him in our family for a few years until he passed away from an autoimmune disease,” Amber Baum said.
In Rocky’s memory, Amber Baum started a non-profit organization called Kennel to Couch in 2019. Kennel to Couch’s mission is two-fold — to prevent pit bulls from being euthanized by supporting prospective adoptions, and to eliminate stereotypes about the breed.
Amber Baum is optimistic that more families will adopt pit bulls when the prejudices are overcome. “Pit bulls were trained to fight because of their physical characteristics, but they are not mean dogs. Pit bulls have been stigmatized for years, and there are a lot of prejudices about these types of dogs,” Baum said.
For Amber Baum, helping military and Gold Star Families and animal advocacy are at the core of her Army values and a passion formed from loved ones lost too soon.
“These lives were too big, too full of love, and too full of happiness to let die with their physical bodies. It is my responsibility to allow the world to feel that love, happiness and kindness that I felt because of them in my life and to continue the legacy in Ryan and Rocky’s honor,” Amber Baum said.
For more information about how you can help Gold Star Families at Aberdeen Proving Ground, contact APG Survivor Outreach Services.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, is home to thousands of Army scientists, engineers, technicians and analysts working around the globe to leverage cutting-edge technologies and empower the American warfighter with the data and abilities to see, sense, make decisions and act faster than our adversaries – today and in the future.
As part of the Army Futures Command, DEVCOM takes calculated risks to find new technological solutions each day. Our experts drive innovation, improve existing technologies and engineer solutions to technical challenges. Our work goes beyond theory to simulation and prototyping. We take potential science and technology solutions from the lab “into the dirt” for experimentation alongside Army Soldiers. DEVCOM prides itself as a global ecosystem of innovators, from world-class universities and large defense contractors, to small, minority-owned businesses and international allies and