WARNING TO READERS: This is the long version. For the short version, scroll to the end and read the last paragraph.
Ryan Douglas Lee, age 50, of Kingstowne, VA, was lost to us Friday, 12 May. What an overwhelming loss it was.
Ryan was the husband of Kelly Harvey Lee (who was, to be sure, much younger than he), and father of Joshua Cody Lee (who, not surprisingly, was younger than both parents). Married to Kelly for 23 years last October, he still did everything she told him to do. He was no dummy; he was one smart guy! Clearly, he learned this behavior from his father. He always said, "I'll never marry a girl like my Mama and I'll never wait on her hand and foot like my Daddy waits on Mama." Well . . . look how that turned out for him.
Ryan was the son of Milton and DiAnne Lee. He was born 20 July 1966, in Prince George's Hospital Center, Cheverly, MD. He was a troubled child from the beginning. He had 2 older brothers, both of whom were smarter and better looking. They, like their parents, were born in North Carolina. Ryan had the audacity to be born in Maryland and was taken home to the family mansion (OK, the small, starter home) in Bowie. He wasn't exactly welcomed by his brothers, but he was fun to play with by rolling him across the floor when Mama wasn't looking. Pushing him fast down the driveway or street, then letting go and seeing how far his baby carriage would travel before crashing was always fun. Aren't you glad you never knew about that, Mama? His parents doted on him and loved him, giving him everything he wanted. They would awaken during the night whenever he cried and would hold him, rock him, feed him, and change him. If his brothers awakened at night, Mama told them, "Get back in that bed or I'll knock you clear into next week!" The mother and father who reared Ryan were not the same mother and father who reared his older brothers. That's for sure! Ryan loved playing sports with his brothers and the other kids on the block. He was particularly good at chasing the baseballs we hit foul, especially when they landed in the poison ivy patch. If we overthrew a receiver, he was always willing to chase down and retrieve the football. Sometimes, we even let him play. Thanks, Ryan! He was athletic, goofy (just look at his old pictures), found humor in most everything (even those old Knock-Knock jokes), and was always found at his brothers' side or spending time with Mama or Daddy. He was a homebody as a child – and that had nothing to do with his looks! It was just his personality.
Ryan was the brother, and best friend, of 3 brothers, Roger, Richard, and Steven Lee. Brotherhood and friendship were key components of Ryan's life. Ryan was 9 years younger than Roger, 6 years younger than Richard, and 3 years older than Steven. And boy, everything he took from his older brothers as a child, he ensured Steven also suffered when he was born (ask Steven about being tied naked to the pole in the basement). He certainly liked to tag along with his brothers, especially Richard, when he was little. The family moved to Alexandria, VA, to the home where his parents still reside, in December 1970. Ryan was 4 and was pretty much worthless for the move. He didn't want any of his toys packed and found ways to disturb every box which might contain something he wanted. The new house was beautiful and spacious when compared to the Bowie home. Mama and Daddy couldn't afford it, but they wanted only the best for their boys. Ryan cried and cried, and begged and begged, until his parents had an in-ground pool installed in the backyard. That pool was the setting for many stories about Ryan (just ask any of his brothers – or ask his Mama about him skinny dipping at night with friends when she slipped out and turned on the pool lights, exposing them in ways which mortified them, especially when she just cackled in the background!). Ryan had a dog, Smokey, growing up. Ryan and Smokey had a special relationship. Ryan could sneak out, then sneak back in, at night and Smokey wouldn't bark. Until the night that changed. Ha! Did Ryan get busted. Smokey had grown cataracts and couldn't see. She warned the household with barking, then went right for him! That was the last night Ryan tried to slip past Smokey. After that, he bribed his little brother, Steven, to keep Smokey locked in his bedroom with him at night. That's why Steven never needed a summer job . . . Ryan played baseball, football, basketball, hopscotch, tag, dodge ball (he was good, too), golf, and frisbee golf. He tried to dance, but that never quite worked for him. Something else he inherited from his father! He got his basketball skills from his Mama who played in high school. She could always school the neighborhood kids with her jump shot. He picked up baseball, football, and golf from his brothers, especially Richard and Steven. He was also a runner, following in Richard's footsteps, until he got good enough to run ahead of him!
Ryan graduated from Thomas A. Edison High School in Alexandria, VA, in June 1984. His parents were surprised he made it, but he did. Summer school seemed to make the difference, as did some well-placed bribes of Mama's home-cooked meals and cookies for the faculty. Boy, did he have a smile on his face as he walked across that stage in the old football stadium. He knew he had skated by and, by golly, he was proud of it. Ryan could always make friends. He would do anything for anyone – even if it put him at risk. He valued brotherhood, friendship, and loyalty, a trait which characterized his love of family, his wide circle of friends, and later his U.S. Marine Corps service and his proud service with the U.S. Capitol Police. Ryan had no idea what to do after graduation; he was just glad to be out of school. He worked construction with his brother, Richard. He worked at Franconia Pizza. I say "worked," but what I mean to say is "he was paid to show up" at his places of employment. But, he was always willing to do the hard work; the long, hard, back-breaking manual labor was fine with Ryan. It was the repetitive tasks any idiot could do which bored him to tears. He even cut grass and shoveled driveways. But neighbors soon balked at having their grass mowed in December and January, and their driveways shoveled in July and August. Ryan just felt it was easier those months and left everything much, much cleaner when he was done. When you think about it, he had a point. Ryan did go to college. After taking some time off, he went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in Daytona, FL. His friends knew it was his love of higher education which drew him to Daytona. His parents suspected it was the beach. When he left Embry-Riddle without finishing his degree, it was clear the beach might have had a greater hold on him.
Ryan met his wife, Kelly, in June 1987. Here's another story about the pool he convinced his parents to build. Baby brother, Steven (he'll always be the baby!) graduated in 1987 and threw a pool party to celebrate. One of his invited classmates was Kelly Harvey. Late that night (or early the next morning), Kelly left the pool and went into the basement to use the restroom. It was dark in the basement, but she noticed the television was on as she passed by. After using the restroom, Kelly stepped back through the basement and paused to watch the television. She was unaware Ryan was sitting in the dark watching Dave Letterman. She stood in front of the couch and watched TV for a few minutes before she heard a voice in the dark ask her, "Excuuuuuse Me! I can't see through you!" Kelly was shocked. She didn't realize anyone else was in the basement, much less just a couple of feet away from her, and responded, "Who are you?", though she replied somewhat more colorfully than that. Ryan always said it was love at first sight. Not only did she look good in silhouette against the light of the TV, but she was quick on the comeback and told him just what she was thinking. And later, she would tell him just what he should be thinking. He liked that. In fact, he loved that!
Ryan spent a great deal of time at Kelly's parent's home, just up the road. Kelly's dad, Robert, was a cook and always had something on the stove – never on time mind you, but it always tasted great. Robert welcomed Ryan at his home (though he always claimed Ryan ate more than his fair share). Kelly's little brother, Sean, only 6 when Ryan and Kelly met, idolized Ryan. And Ryan loved Sean. They maintained a strong bond as brothers since that time. When Sean needed advice on girls and dating, he would turn to Ryan. When he wanted good advice, he'd turn to Kelly! Sean and Ryan would play video games for hours until Kelly asked Ryan, "Who'd you come to see?" Ryan would look up from his controller and say, "Can't you tell?" Sean was another little brother to him, now that Steven had gotten older. I think Ryan decided he could spend time with Sean and not make all the mistakes he made with Steven. It looks like that worked pretty well for everyone. Ryan loved Kelly so much, he married her in 1993. It took him a while to get up the courage to ask her to marry him. He was such a sentimental chicken! But he popped the question in a high-profile way. Ryan and Kelly attended opening day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in April 1993. It was the 2d opening day in the new park. Ryan arranged for the huge jumbotron screen to post his proposal, "Kelly, will you marry me? Ryan." Of course, the hard part was getting Kelly to look away from her drink and away from the fine looking young men on the field to see the screen when it flashed across. Ryan was so nervous that day! But Kelly didn't keep him in suspense, she said, "Sure, why not." Ryan leapt for joy – mostly because he couldn't dance.
Now they had a wedding to plan. Like most boring, repetitive tasks, Ryan found a way to avoid it. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was 26 and would turn 27 (the maximum age for a recruit) in July. The recruiter discouraged him and explained he would find it a very difficult time at Boot Camp, especially in the summer at Parris Island, South Carolina. He was just too old to hack it with all those 18 and 19-year-old boys. Ryan said he didn't care; he just didn't want to have to pick colors of napkins, choose flowers for the bridesmaids, give his opinion on tuxedos for the groomsmen (which Kelly would then correct to the color he really meant!), and select what color ribbon to put on the ring bearer's pillow. And, it was a challenge for him. He was in great shape and, like all the Lee boys, never backed down from a challenge. He knew he was the best. Sure enough, he not only passed his physical and enlisted in the Marines, but he trained at Parris Island, celebrated his 27th birthday (with much abuse from his fellow recruits and DIs) finishing 1st in his Boot Camp class. He was called, "Old Man" by his fellow recruits, but he was driven by years of competition with his brothers and he won it all. He ran farther, marched longer, shot straighter, made his bunk tighter (he didn't learn that from Mama!), kept his locker cleaner (that might be from Daddy), and not only graduated 1st in his class, but was promoted to Private First Class at graduation. Ryan was no slacker. He proved his mettle and surprised those younger boys. Of course, he knew Kelly was expecting him to show up at the wedding. He was preparing. Ryan rode home with us after graduation, and before leaving for A-School in Yuma, AZ, he and Kelly were married on 24 October 1993, just a couple of days after graduation. They were married in the family church, Franconia Baptist Church, in Alexandria, VA, just across the street from Edison High School, and just 3 blocks from home. He cut quite a figure in his Class A uniform! And, of course, not an ounce of fat after 13 long weeks of sand fleas at Parris Island. Ryan went to A-School for his MOS as a Forward Observer or Marine Artillery Scout Observer. He loved the challenges of his MOS and especially enjoyed his time at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, CA. What was the bane of many a Marine, was a thrill for Ryan. His first duty posting was an unaccompanied tour to Okinawa. Kelly told him that wasn't going to happen. He would pay her way to go and she would go with him, they would live off base, and she would find a job. So, that's what they did. Like he really had a choice . . . They rented a small hovel off base, Kelly worked at the Marine Corps Exchange, and Ryan left for a 2-month TDY after only one month together. Kelly worked, made friends, and found a high school girlfriend (hers, not Ryan's) who also was married to a Marine on Okinawa. Ryan returned stateside to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, where he was promoted to Corporal. One or both of Ryan and Kelly were surprised when Kelly was found to be with child (that means she was finally pregnant for those of you who are U.S. Marines or U.S. Capitol Police). Their son, Joshua Cody Lee, was born in New Bern, NC, on 25 August 1995. In keeping with the example of his father, Ryan sired a boy. He was proud of Josh and doted on him non-stop. Well, when Josh was 13, it got a little tougher. He mostly doted when Josh couldn't see or hear him. Father and son were close. Ryan adored Josh and encouraged him in every physical challenge. Mental challenges, well . . . you know Ryan . . . Ryan served 4 years active duty with the U. S. Marine Corps.
He worked a number of jobs in the D.C. area, then set his eyes on the United States Capitol Police. He didn't consider other police forces. He was going for the best. It seemed natural to Ryan to move from the Marine Corps to the Capitol Police. No one was more shocked than Ryan when he was accepted (although Mama was skeptical he was telling the truth) and was a member of Class #140 in June 2003. Ryan loved the Capitol Hill Police. He found his home. He loved the camaraderie of brotherhood and valued the loyalty and trust of his colleagues. And, he usually gave even better than he got with this crew! But, he took his share of shots from everyone. Ryan worked the funerals of Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, the inaugurations of 3 presidents, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, and the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. He was thrilled when he made it onto the TIGER Squad, the bike patrol of the Capitol Police. He rode long and hard to train, enlisting his brother, Steven, to ride with him. He spent way more money than he should (do you think he ever told Kelly how much he spent?) on a specialty mountain bike to prepare for the TIGER Squad. He began on the Senate side, then switched to the House, where he found his stride. He would often ride with the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and even played practical jokes on him by gluing various objects to the Speaker's bike. Of course, his loving TIGER Squad partners always pointed at Ryan when the Speaker wanted to know who the culprit was! For years, Ryan yearned to be an officer of the Capitol Police K-9 Unit. He kept hounding (no pun intended!) officers of the unit and several times had dogs scheduled for him, but something always happened to end those plans when the dogs were reassigned. Finally, in March 2015, Ryan was accepted into training and graduated with Gala on 3 July 2015. The team received only a brief break after graduation and were told to report to the Capitol for work the next morning on 4 July. No rest for the weary. Ryan often commented on how it seemed the force put more money into training the dogs than they did in training the officers. His brothers just looked at him and said, "We know you. We can understand that." I don't think Ryan ever got it. Ryan earned his PBIED (Personal Borne Improvised Explosive Devices) certification, or rather, Gala earned it and dragged Ryan along for the journey. There were 12 officers in Ryan's K-9 Squad and a rough total of 60 dogs in the U.S. Capitol Police. Ryan found his calling with Gala and the U.S. Capitol Police.
Ryan lived an all-too-short life, but one full of love and joy. He was loved and he loved. His parents were a delight to him (well, most of the time . . .) and he often stopped by to visit – and of course, swim in the pool. Mama was not a dog lover, so Ryan especially enjoyed bringing Gala by the house, letting her sniff all around Mama, and then head out and let her swim in the pool. Of course, he let her in the house still wet from the pool. Mama hasn't swum in the pool since. But, she would still make his favorite foods and never wanted him to leave hungry. That's love! Of course, Ryan brought her candy and nuts. She was happy. And he always had a word for Daddy. But he didn't bother to bring him candy and nuts; he knew who would get them! He never entered or left without a hug and kiss. His wife, Kelly, was the love of his life, his soulmate, his partner, his counterbalance, his anchor, and of course, the one who told him what to think. Ryan was so proud of Joshua, his son. He loved him dearly, told everyone about him (good and bad Josh, so those stories will live on!), and spent as much time as possible with him. They were father and son, but also friends and partners with a very special bond. Few things meant as much to Ryan as spending time with his brothers. He was good about helping his older brother, Roger, do all the heavy lifting around the house (e.g., driving to North Carolina to build a workshop in the backyard and going home with his first child, Durham – a black Labrador he loved and spoiled; and it only took a call and Ryan was on his way to help move the deck furniture and grill on and off the porch while the porch was stained; then he'd return to move them back on the porch). Funny how he never stayed to stain the deck . . . But golfing with Richard and Steven and his brother-in-law, Sean, might have been his favorite brotherly pastime. He just had fun and didn't take the game too seriously – unlike his brothers. He would tee up on the first hole and hit a great shot down the middle of the fairway with a nice draw, then Steven would come up and slice the ball wildly into the woods. Ryan would grin and say, "Guess those golf lessons are really paying off, huh?" He really knew how to hurt a guy. Ryan's fellow officers on the U.S. Capitol Police knew he would take advantage of every opportunity to bust their chops. They just knew it was coming and cringed any time they came late, wore something new, had to admit to an error, or made the mistake of getting a too-obvious haircut. Ryan was poised to jump!
Ryan Douglass Lee was a true man. He loved and was loved. He'll be missed and remembered – for what he did . . . for what he meant . . . for what he inspired . . . and for who he was to each of us. We shared him for 50 years. We'll never forget him. Ryan, may you rest in the peace of the Lord.