A small park in the middle of San Diego’s Linda Vista community will now be named “John Baca Park” after a Kearny High School graduate who received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
John Baca thanked his friends and family as a monument in his honor was unveiled Saturday at the park once known as Morley Green along Linda Vista Road.
Baca says he should have died while fighting for the U.S. in Vietnam on Feb. 10, 1970. Baca, a 21-year-old soldier at the time, found himself in the middle of a gunfight and watched a grenade land in the middle of his patrol.
“I saw my whole life flash through me. What do I do? Do I pick it up? Do I throw it? Where did it come from? It’s not supposed to be here, and do I run from it? Somebody is going to get wounded,” Baca said. “All these thoughts went through my mind.”
He covered the grenade with his helmet and then covered his helmet with his body, saving the lives of the men around him. He remembers praying to Jesus and feeling as if an angelic presence was holding him as he lay bleeding on the battlefield.
It would be easy to call Baca a hero based solely on what he did in Vietnam but it's what he has quietly done ever since that life-changing moment that reveals his true character.
A former resident of Julian, California, in east San Diego County, he packs up famous Julian apple pies and sends them around the nation to wounded warriors and the families who've lost loved ones in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
With organizations like Snowball Express, he is still a hero devoted to helping the children of fallen heroes.
Baca is one of only 71 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor still living.