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A Brother’s Tribute: Former GHS Football Captain, Sergeant Major Brad Baiotto, Retires From USMC After 30 Years & 6 Combat Tours

Oct 12 2021 10:46:20

  • Pictured L-R: Chris West, Jason Tibbetts & Brad Baiotto in 1989, & Brad w/his family

In 22 years of covering high school and college sports, this reporter has never written a story about a family member, and quite frankly,  it didn’t even cross my mind.

I think and hope, though, that this tribute to my middle brother is both appropriate and warranted.

Brad Baiotto was a 1990 Glendora High graduate, and a captain on the Tartans’ only CIF-SS title team back in 1989.

He was a force on both sides of the ball for the late Dean Karnoski.

Brad played defensive end and tight end on a team that remains close to this day.

Whenever there’s a reason for celebration or mourning, that 1990 band of brothers binds together like they did over three decades ago, and they support one another through the best and worst of times.

Although I’m two years older, I know most of his good friends, and Brad is the only person I’ve ever heard multiple people say, “I don’t know if I’m his best friend, but he’s mine.”

At GHS, he also wrestled, and was popular with his buddies, and someone the ladies kept an eye on.

As a typical teen, he liked to have a good time, and while he couldn’t drink Andre the Giant under the table,  Brad was often times the life of the party.

There came a time, however, when he decided to change the direction of his life and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

I can vividly recall the early morning that my parents and I stood in our Glendora garage as Brad’s recruiter took him off into the dark and to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside.

There were tears flowing in that garage as the light of the recruiter’s car disappeared onto Country Club Drive.

And I’ll admit, it was his big brother that was doing all the crying.

After graduating from boot camp, we all saw this party boy turn into a chiseled, disciplined and dedicated patriot, but don’t get it wrong, he still knew/knows how to have a good time.

During the early years of his career, Brad was dating a Glendora High School graduate named Amy Dorsey, who had two young sons.

Matt was five or so at the time and Zach was turning three.

Brad wasn’t their biological father, but he helped Amy raise two young boys into respectful and accomplished young men.

Both Matt and Zach are college graduates.

Matt is married with two kids and Zach will tie the knot in 2022 to his longtime girlfriend.

Brad didn’t care about blood or DNA or even a title, he just wanted Matt and Zach to know they were loved.

Amy and Brad welcomed a baby girl named Maddison into the world in December of 1997.

And just four months ago, Maddie got married.

She earned her bachelors degree from Campbell College, and is currently working on her doctorate.

Going back two decades, and in February of 2001, Brad and Amy said, “I do.”

Just seven months later,  Osama bin Laden and his band of religious extremists attacked America and the world changed forever.

As often as he tried to make sure we didn’t worry about his safety, on this occasion, Brad said the 9/11 attacks could kill him, because there was no question the U.S. was going to war.

I don’t know what I did for my 31st birthday, and I’m sure many of you can’t recall that day in your own lives.

We all know, however, what Brad did on that particular day.

On March 20, 2003, he was one of the first 10 Americans across the Kuwaiti border into Iraq.

It was a time that none of us could prepare for.

On that very night, I was headed to Las Vegas with three friends, but I decided to drive alone.

At the time, I had a multi-disk CD changer in the back of my car and was listening to music when a buddy named Rhett called as he drove just behind me.

“The war has started and George W is going to address the nation in 15 minutes,” he said.

I immediately switched from CD’s to the radio, and as President Bush asked the nation to say a prayer for our troops and their families, the tears streaming down my face could have put out a forest fire.

We got to Vegas, checked in, went to the room and turned on the TV.

Saddam Hussein was on every channel, and the Iraqi dictator addressed his people in full military garb, and promised that he would send every American and allied soldier back home in a body bag.

Nearly 10 minutes after getting to that room, I told my friends that I was going home, because there was no way I’d be able to relax and enjoy myself knowing my brother was in mortal danger.

That combat mission, which included the experience of going to the restroom in one of Saddam’s palaces, would be the first of six.

Brad did two tours in Iraq and four more in Afghanistan.

It was during his first tour in Iraq that Reagan Baiotto was born in June of 2003, and sadly, we all got to hold Brad’s second daughter before he did.

He was genuinely concerned that he wouldn’t get the chance to meet her.

As he and his boys returned to 29 Palms from tour No. 1, Brad’s wife put up a sign just inside the gates that had a picture of Reagan and said something like, “Dear daddy, I can’t wait for my first hug and kiss. Love, Reagan.”

Thankfully for all involved, Brad did meet and helped raise his baby girl.

Reagan is now a freshman and plays Division 1 soccer for Campbell College in Buies Creek, North Carolina.

Looking back on his stellar career, Brad earned the Bronze Medal Star for getting his and an Afghani battalion out of two life-and-death missions.

Now, fast forward to October 15th, 2021, and Sergeant Major Bradley William Baiotto is retiring after thirty years of service to our country, and as mentioned, those six combat tours.

The ceremony on Friday will take place at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

At the age of 49, he has his share of battle scars that one would expect from years in a combat zone.

Brad has endured six knee surgeries, including having both knees replaced.

He had one procedure done on his shoulder, and his hearing isn’t the greatest.

But all things considered, this is one tough and happy dude.

And after all he’s sacrificed for his country, Brad doesn’t expect or need a thank you from us, his fellow Americans.

In time, he will likely work again, and perhaps it will be for Homeland Security or something along those lines.

But for now, he gets to sleep in and keep tabs on his beloved Dodgers, Raiders and Lakers, as well as spending time with his wife and family.

It should be said that while most people, including this writer, look up to and appreciate the sacrifices of every service member, past and present, we often times overlook others.

There are massive sacrifices made by the soldier’s family, and none greater than their wives.

Amy Baiotto has gone above and beyond to support Brad and his career.

While Brad was in harm’s way, Amy had the task of worrying about whether she’d see her husband again, all while raising four kids.

And it doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to assess the job she did.

All one has to do is observe the way in which Matt, Zach, Maddison and Reagan live their lives and the way they treat others.

What makes his big brother most proud?

It’s simple.

Brad doesn’t care what your ethnic background is, who you voted for, who you sleep with or what God you pray to.

If you’re an American or one of its allies, Sergeant Major Brad Baiotto has your back.

May God bless our troops and the United States of America.

The following quotes are from Brad’s kids and Amy’s mom and dad.

Quotable:

Maddison Baiotto:  “I have always admired how hard he has worked all these years for our country. It takes a very determined person to stay in a mentally, physically and emotionally taxing job for 30 years, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. I remember as a child writing reports about him being my hero, because he always sacrificed so much. When he would deploy, he would always send letters/emails to let us know how he was and to remind us that he was thinking about us everyday and that he loves us all. Homecomings were always my favorite. All of us kids waiting for dad to get home was always very special. We would stand and watch tons of marines come out of charter buses as we tried to find our dad. Being a military family was definitely bittersweet, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It has made me the person I am today.”

Reagan Baiotto: “Growing up, I didn’t understand the extent that his work entailed. I now know that he has given so much of himself and his life to protect our country and most importantly our family. That did not only take extreme sacrifice, but it took a selfless person. I know that he had to put so many other peoples decisions before his own. This is just one of the things that I admire most about my dad. I am extremely proud of him for everything he has put into his career and the way he balanced a life at home. He always made sure that we knew that even when he wasn’t present, he was still there in our hearts. He found so many ways to show his love for us and make us feel safe and protected under him. My dad has taught me so much about life and I can not thank him enough for all he has done.”

Zach Fishman: “Brad came into my life when I was two and we began living together when I was around six or seven. He has always treated me as if I was one of his own. That is shown by the bond that we’ve grown over the past 25 years. He was the one who got me into wrestling, he was the one who made me a diehard Raiders, Dodgers, Lakers, and Kings fan, and he is the one who always has my back and will be there for me when I need him. Brad would literally give me the shirt off of his back if it was the last one he owned, because that is just the kind of guy/dad that he is. Growing up with a father who was in the military was certainly no joke. He’s been on a lot of combat missions to Iraq and Afghanistan, and it was during those times that we had no idea whether or not we said goodbye for the last time. Every day was spent hoping and praying that he would come back, and each and every time he did.

Without Brad, I’m not exactly sure where my life would be today. I don’t know that I would have ever wrestled, which lead to unbreakable bonds with many friends over the years and me becoming an all-American in college. I don’t know that I would have the mental toughness and fortitude that he showed on a daily basis when we were growing up. Frankly, I don’t want to know what life would have been like without him. Brad is one of my very best friends in this life, and I am super proud to say that. The bond that we have gained over these past 25 years is nothing short of amazing. I am proud to say that I am the son of Brad Baiotto, who served his country for 30 awesome years. I don’t know what the future has in store for him, but I know that there are still big things to come, and I look forward to seeing each and every moment.”

Matt Fishman: “Brad became a part of my life when I was about six years old. He always took the time to do things with us, whether it was sharing some of his passions such as camping or hiking, or even just sitting down and explaining football to me when I was little. He immediately accepted me as his own kid, and I am grateful for the continued effort he puts into being a part of my life, and now his grandkids life. Brad has always treated me with respect and he always would follow through with what he said. He taught me how to treat people with respect, saying yes sir and yes ma’am, and to always stand up for what you believe in. The biggest impact Brad has taught me is how to remain loyal. He has always been loyal to his family and his career, something I very much admire. His passion for serving in the USMC is his pride and joy, and he will continue to show that even after he retires.

Brad cares very much for the people that are close to him, which not only includes his family at home, but also his family at work. Brad is the epitome of a dedicated Marine, one who will continue to look out for others before he thinks about himself. The thing that sticks with me the most is be grateful for what you have. You don’t always have to have everything in life, it is enjoying what you have. Growing up, we didn’t have much, we learned to make do with what we had and sometimes that meant being creative. We learned how to make use of natural resources within the areas that we had lived and we always had great times whether it was going for bike rides, our local lake, hiking, camping, you name it. To this day, Brad’s biggest motive is his family. As a young father myself, it didn’t seem hard for my mom and Brad to raise kids and have a work life. I can say that being a husband, father, and provider is one of the hardest things that I have encountered so far in my life, and they made it look easy.”

Lynda and Doug Dorsey: “To our Son-in-Law, Brad: Doug and I want you to know just how proud we are of your 30 years in the United States Marine Corps. We would like to thank you for serving this country, defending our freedom, and giving up many years of your life. You came back to us a hero. You were willing to give your life if need be. Each time you came back, you still looked like the Brad we all love, but we knew deep inside that you had gone through many changes. We know that you had seen things that none of us could imagine. And yet you continued to fight to help the people in another country live a better life. We are so thankful that God brought you back to us. We pray that he continues to be with you for the rest of your life. We love you!”

To view a photo gallery of Brad through the years, click on the Facebook link here: Facebook

 

 

 

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