John Baca, Medal of Honor recipient and friend to 5.11 Tactical, frequently visits the 5.11 Tactical Development Center in Irvine, CA. We are honored to have the chance to get to know him, and we’ve been inspired by his generous spirit.
Most of Baca’s visits to the Dev Center include a stop in The Forge, the on-site CrossFit gym, and a speed bag demo. His self-taught speed bag skills are impressive, and he has inspired many of us to take up this exercise in timing, patience and skill. John says “I picked up this book, The Speed Bag Bible, and decided I was going to do it. So I practiced and practiced, and eventually I got it.” He is now a speed bag expert.
Baca also brings his poodle Jojo on most visits to the Dev Center. After seeing a poster at the local post office, he decided to bring him home. Jojo has become more than a pet – she’s now a service dog who can tell when Baca is about to have a seizure due to the injuries he sustained.
Baca’s humble nature precludes any self-aggrandizing speeches and he would sooner talk about the inspiring stories of people he meets rather than boast about any of his accomplishments. A strong determination to help others keeps this Vietnam veteran busy every day. After moving to Julian, CA, a small town outside of San Diego, Baca struck up a quick friendship with Debbie Gaudette, owner of the local bakery called Apple Alley. He started sending pies to wounded military members and families of the fallen – up to 10 per week at times. He has never dropped his pack taking care of our veterans in need.
Baca was presented the Medal of Honor in 1971 by President Richard Nixon for his actions as a Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, Company D, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam. He says the old-timers took him in and this helped him to really get to know the older generation of soldiers. During that time, he saw how important it was to remember spouses, families and caretakers in addition to the veterans and those we’ve lost.
Baca recounts his experience on February 10, 1970, when he dove on a grenade thrown near his firing position in Phuoc Long Province, South Vietnam, saving his fellow soldiers.
In 1990, Baca returned to Vietnam to create a United States & Vietnam friendship clinic alongside former enemies.
Baca now lives in the San Diego area, and visits the 5.11 Dev Center regularly along with his friends retired Marine Corp Major Bill Mimiaga, and Greg Young, a retired US Army Sergeant. (Pictured above, left to right: Tom Davin, 5.11 CEO with John Baca, Bill Mimiaga, Greg Young.) We’re honored to have friends like John Baca in our midst. And we’re interested in hearing from you, our fans and friends, about your local heroes. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. @511tactical #511tactical