Updated: Jul 5
The Fourth of July is a day of celebration and patriotism in the United States, and this year's Independence Day game between the San Francisco Giants and the Seattle Mariners holds a special significance. The Giants organization has chosen an extraordinary individual, Chief Warrant Officer 3 (Gunner) AJ Pasciuti, to toss out the first pitch at Oracle Park. Born and raised in Sunnyvale, California, AJ's journey from his hometown to the battlefield and now to the baseball diamond is an inspiring tale of courage, resilience, and unwavering love for his favorite team, the San Francisco Giants.
A Hero's Path:
AJ Pasciuti's story began in Sunnyvale, California, with a diverse family of immigrants, artists, and small business owners. From a young age, he was taught that it was his responsibility to help others in whatever way he could. Fueled by a sense of duty and a desire to protect his country, he enlisted in the Marine Corps as a senior in high school following the tragic events of September 11, 2001. AJ's military career started in July 2002 when he reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. After completing infantry training at the School of Infantry (SOI-W), he became a rifleman and team leader for the renowned Third Battalion, Fifth Marines Regiment, of the First Marine Division.
During his time with 3/5, AJ deployed three times to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. First, on the march up during the initial invasion of Iraq; second, the infamous Battle of Fallujah in 2004; and third, between Ramadi and Fallujah in 2006. His exceptional skills and bravery earned him recognition, but his deployment as a Scout Sniper Team Leader in Iraq in 2006 showcased his unparalleled dedication and heroism. AJ played a pivotal role in a historic sniper vs. sniper mission, where he tracked down a notorious enemy sniper, eliminating the threat and recovering a stolen Marine sniper rifle, marking the first such mission involving an American service member since the Vietnam War.
AJ's expertise and leadership abilities led him to instruct at the Scout Sniper School, Camp Pendleton, from 2007 to 2008, where he discovered a passion for teaching that would continue throughout his career. He shared knowledge far beyond sniper skills, including his field experience, mission planning, survival techniques, tracking, and sniper employment with aspiring Marines. He continued his service as a Recon Team Leader and Platoon Sergeant for Third Reconnaissance Battalion, deploying to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom 10.1 from 2009 to 2010.
Building upon his already impressive career, AJ joined the Second Force Reconnaissance Company from 2010 to 2013, serving as a Force Recon Team Leader and Platoon Sergeant. During this period, he deployed with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit as part of the experimental Maritime Raid Force, leading as a Force Recon Team Leader and Maritime Raid Force Element Leader.
AJ's dedication to excellence and commitment to shaping future Marines led him back to instructor duty with the Reconnaissance Training Company from 2013 to 2017. During this time, he spearheaded the creation of the Recon Team Leaders Course, revised the Basic Recon Course, and played a vital role in recruiting efforts for the Recon community. In 2017, AJ's outstanding service was recognized as he was selected for the highly competitive Gunner program. He attended the Basic School in Quantico, Virginia. He went on to support Third Battalion, Third Marines as Battalion Gunner and Operations Officer on two deployments within the Indo-Pacific region.
In January 2020, his career came full circle when AJ transitioned to the School of Infantry West (SOI-W) Infantry Training Battalion. His passion for teaching once again became the focus as he took the lead in creating the Infantry Marine Course (IMC), a groundbreaking initiative that revolutionized the foundational education of enlisted Marines, equipping them for modern-day conflicts.
The Giants Fan:
While AJ dedicated himself to protecting his country, he always remembered his roots as a Giants fan. He grew up immersed in the passion and excitement of Giants baseball. From his first game with his grandmother on a windy afternoon at legendary Candlestick Park, watching his favorite player Kirt Manwaring (a fellow catcher), to the modern Oracle Park, AJ's heart has always been with his beloved team. Even during his military service, he found solace and comfort in following the Giants' journey and the strong connection to home. From watching the 2010 World Series run and subsequent win while conducting special operations training in North Carolina, to watching the 2012 World Series win on the Armed Forces Network feed alone aboard the USS New York while off of the Eastern coast of Africa, to being able to attend game four of the 2014 World Series and watch the Giants come from behind and win at home; the team, the stadium, and the fans have always personified the meaning of home.
Recognition and Accomplishments:
AJ Pasciuti's exceptional service to his country has been recognized with numerous awards and decorations. Among his many accolades are the Purple Heart, three Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat "V," the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat "V," and two Combat Action Ribbons. AJ's academic achievements include a Bachelor's Degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a Master of Business from the University of Southern California.
On this upcoming Fourth of July, the San Francisco Giants organization will honor CWO3 (Gunner) AJ Pasciuti, a hometown hero and lifelong fan, by inviting him to toss out the first pitch at Oracle Park.
As AJ steps onto the mound to throw that opening pitch, he represents not only the Marine Corps but also the spirit of resilience and unwavering patriotism that defines America. His story inspires us all, reminding us of the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women and the enduring bond between sports and the communities they represent.
AJ's journey from a small town in California to the battlefields overseas, and now to the baseball diamond, is a testament to his steadfast dedication, courage, and love for his country and favorite team.
So, let's join together in honoring AJ Pasciuti and all those who have served as we celebrate Independence Day, our nation's freedom, and the timeless connection between sports and the American spirit. Play ball! Go Giants!
Video Credit: San Francisco Giants
Photo Credit: San Francisco Giants
Video Credit: James Brown, Wine Country Marines