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The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

Brian Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor in the history of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. Read his full biography.

Medal of Honor: John P. Baca

MohbookEvery weekday for 110 straight days we will feature a different living recipient of the Medal of Honor. These are the men who have received their nation's highest military honor. We are archiving all the stories here. Brian is a board member of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. The words and photos are courtesy of Artisan Books, publishers of "Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty" by Peter Collier with photographs by Nick Del Calzo.

JOHN P. BACA
Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, Company D, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division

Baca_4By his own account, John Baca was a problem kid. Growing up in the San Diego area, he was in and out of juvenile hall for a variety of petty crimes. At seventeen, after serving a brief sentence in a California Youth Authority correctional facility, he wanted to join the military but couldn't because he was still on parole. Two years later, in 1969, he was drafted.

Early in 1970, Baca was a specialist fourth class in a heavy-weapons platoon with the 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division in Phuoc Long Province, Vietnam. Engagements with the enemy had become more intense as his unit moved closer to the Cambodian border. In one of them, the unit was pinned down by the enemy for hours. Ankle-deep in red clay, Baca had just bent over to set up recoilless rifle when he heard the snapping sound of a sniper's bullet pass right over his back.

On the morning of February 10, after being in the bush for almost a month, Baca's company returned to its base. The men were to have a few days of rest before going out again, but late that afternoon they and a rifle platoon were ordered to set up a night ambush and were helicoptered to the target area at dusk.

The Americans established a position near a trail and placed warning devices -- trip wires connected to claymore mines - -on either end of it that would alert them to the presence of the enemy. When an eight-man patrol from the rifle platoon went out to investigate a mine explosion, it soon came under attack from enemy soldiers concealed along the trail. Baca, sprinting through heavy fire with his recoilless rifle to aid the patrol, had just set up a firing position for his weapon and fired one round when a grenade landed close by. He would later remember thinking, "Do I pick it up? Do I run?" Then he ripped off his helmet, put it over the grenade, and covered it with his body.

The grenade exploded, and several GIs picked Baca up and carried him to the shelter of a tree. Leaning against the trunk, he felt no pain, although when he looked down at  his stomach he could see his intestines poking out of his uniform. He remembers wondering if his mother, whom he had called that morning and told that he would remain in the rear for  a few days, would be angry with him. The noises of the battle raging all around him seemed distant, and the movement of his comrades seemed to be in slow motion. With death very near, Baca felt he was held in the arms of an angel -- peaceful and gentle moments.

It was close to two hours before Baca was carried to a landing zone and helicoptered out. On the flight back to the base, he gripped the hand of another wounded soldier, then began to hemorrhage and lost consciousness. After being treated in Long Binh for a week, he was sent to a hospital in Japan. His mother, told that he might survive, flew to his bedside and stayed with him for a few weeks, then accompanied him back to the States in late April. Over the next several months, he continued to improve, although he wound up in intensive care on two occasions.

John Baca was out of the Army and starting college when he was informed that he would receive the Medal of Honor. President Richard Nixon presented it to him at the White House on June 15, 1971. Baca returned to Vietnam in 1990 and worked for two months alongside former enemy soldiers to build a United States-Vietnam friendship clinic.

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COMMENTS

John Baca is my friend. He is an honorable, gentle man who quietly, invisibly continues his service to others and to God.

Everyday I am reminded of the devotion and courage of our soldiers...I take care of many veterans where I work...I am a nurse's aid at a veteran's nursing home...I see our men and women of the military in all their subtle lives each and every day and I feel thankful that I am able to give them comfort in their final years with us...I shall never forget them one and all...we must support our troops past and present...if not for the brave men and women of our military the U.S.A. would not be as strong and safe as it is today...

Everyone who gave their life in defense of this country in my mind is a Medal of HONOR winner....

Everyday I thank ALL the men and women in uniform, Heroes each and every one, for the freedom and life I have here in the USA. Bless you all!

First, I salute everyone that has been awarded the Medal of Honor. I want to take a few minute in this oh-so hurried world today to say Thank you to ALL my fellow Veterans. I think more and more of the men and women that hold thier right hand up and swear to defend this great nation and we all know what the cost could be. My daughter now serves and will deploy later this year to defend the same as I did. I am VERY PROUD of her and pray for her and all the other Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines. God Bless and God Speed.

I am honored to say that I know Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Sammy L. Davis, a signed copy of his Citation hangs on my wall at work. No matter how many times I have read his Citation, it still brings tears to my eyes. I truly believe that the average American will never quite understand the sacrifices made not only by our armed forces, but the families that support and love them, on a daily basis so that we can live free. These men and women are the true heroes.

Thank you NBC Nightly News for honoring our soldier heroes. There are so many more whose stories we will never hear. We cannot thank them enough. I have a son in the air force who wants to fly rescue choppers. I believe our soldiers are all about saving others lives. All of our soldiers, past, present & future deserve our honor & need our prayers. They are special people. God bless America.

Thank's to all the Medal of Honor recipients. I would like to thank all the other soldiers who sacrificed their lives so that we may go free. Always remember freedom is not "free."

Thankyou NBC for all the coverage you share with all the world about our Heros that are fighting for our country and our Heros that have fought and died for us Words are not enough to THANK ALL OF OUR HEROS. Today We buried one of our Hometownheros ARMY SPEC.RYAN COLLINS OF VERNON TEXAS. HE was killed in action Friday May18 2007 in Iraq. His story touched so many hearts.He had the chance to come home earliar in the week but HE gave his turn to another soldier so that soldier could be with his baby and wife. GOD had other plans for our HometownHero.MAY GOD BLESS ALL THE FAMILIES HEROS

Here's a Big Hug and Thanks for you and all our men and women in the service. I truly Thank God for the freedom I have. I am so proud to be an American. God Bless You All !!!!!!!!!

nice to hear the great and special stuff from you all. america is so special thanks to all who sacrificed. my dad was on the great USS IOWA.

Everytime a family celebrates Memorial Day with a cookout and all the relatives get together,should remember that there is a veteran who could not enjoy this day. He never had a chance to have children,grand children that could visit on this day & have a cookout in the back yard. He saw the world in a bad way & tried to make it better so we could have a good day with our loved ones. James D. USMC 69-71

hey u all r true heros and i wish i could tell u all in person how thankful i am for people like u

I am a Viet Nam vet, and it has always been a long long dream to meet a Medal of Honor winner. They are what this country is all about.

God Bless you! Thank you.

In 30 years military service, while politicians and media babble on, the men and women I've served with have done their duty honorably all over the world. Seeing the world through their eyes, you should cherish America all the more. Without their sacrifice, the world would not be better off today - men and women labored unware in the hours before WW2, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, or Sept 11th 2001, that hateful people will always try to destroy what they hate - there is no peace through words alone. Praise a veteran for his or her service anytime.

My son Zach Bass is is a new marine, As a worried parent, I pray to God they improve the medical services men before him have gotten! We hold you the highest honor, for our lives and freedom for others. Thank You, God Bless You. Now my son wants to be one of the Proud-

I am lucky enough to know John personally and can say that he is a man who walks as he talks. He has a peacefullness about his as a man who has nothing to prove. Most of his waking hours are spent helping others. he does love to fish...(and usually gives most of his catch away)

Truly Amazing!!

I would like to thank them all for keeping us free

we should honor our fallen heroes all the time, but this day is really special because it is Memorial Day in which we pay a special thank you to all of those serviceman and women for keeping our freedom. I was in the US ARMY for 9 years and felt it was my honor and privilage to serve my country. The Medal of Honor is a proud metal, to the ones that have recieved it and to those in the futher that will be honored with it. It is one of the greatest awards given. Thank you for the current military personnel and may God Bless all of you.

Duty, Honor, Country! Most of this current generation have no idea what these words mean. We are a weaker nation with more divisions and polarizations bacause we do not have a national draft that placed young men in the company of others that they would never have chosen as friends, and then learned to depend on them with their lives. The lessons of Gibbons is lost on us. I am a Proud Veteran, USMC 1969-71.

I have just returned from a short visit to the beaches of Normandy. My first stop was the US Cemetery & Memorial. What brought tears, well more tears when I seen the first "Known but to God" headstone, was out of the 9000+ white headstones, was the 3 with the names written in gold letters.

God Bless all of our Medal of Honor recipients and all of our brave soldiers and Marines. We are free to move about our great country (with some minor difficulties) because of these heroes in uniform. I am a Vietnam Vet myself and I served with the 1st Battallion 5th Cav of the Famous 1st Cavalry Division in 1970-71. I didn't ask to go to Vietnam, but I am a better, more disciplined person because of it.

Loyalty & Courage - The First Team OOORAH!

Thaqnk you John Baca for your bravery and dedication to our country. This spirit is what keeps us free men!

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