POWAY, CA. -- Christmas came early for two local military veterans, one of them a Medal of Honor recipient.
In a show of thanks for their service, two San Diego military veterans were presented with cars. One of the recipients is a Camp Pendleton Marine who is a single dad. He wanted to remain anonymous. The other recipient is John Baca, a Vietnam War hero who was awarded the Medal of Honor. Baca, who lives in Linda Vista, was presented with a 2014 Nissan Pathfinder. Baca said the gift is a lot to take in.
"It's really beautiful, really beautiful," Baca said. "How do you turn it off?"
Baca, a Vietnam veteran who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service, received the keys to this 2014 Nissan Pathfinder.
“I had a little Nissan, a red little wagon that I’d drive cross country, and they last forever, but this is a super deluxe,” Baca said.
The Pathfinder was restored through a special program sponsored by Caliber Collision and GEICO that reconditions and donates vehicles to veterans.
“I think if they do it more, it will cut down on the 22 a day committing suicide of the guys coming back," Baca said. "They seem to be forgotten and no one cares. So much of humanity turns their backs and pretend they don’t exist."
In February 1970 in Vietnam, Baca, then an Army Specialist 4th Class, saved his team after a grenade landed in front of them. Baca threw his helmet and body on top of the explosive. He was seriously injured, but his action saved eight of his fellow soldiers. Baca said he thinks about them everyday.
“They’re in here," he said, "You don’t lose them."
Last December, a park in Linda Vista, where Baca grew up, was named after him. He thought that was an honor. This December, he received the gift of a car.
“There’s too many people to thank and I don’t know what to say," Baca said. "I guess the silence says a lot.”