Col. Jay R. Vargas (ret.), who received the Medal of Honor in 1970 from President Richard Nixon for his bravery in battle in Vietnam in 1968 will speak Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at Golden Valley High School.
Vargas was a major in the U.S. Marine Corps when in late April 1968 his company engaged the enemy in battle at the village of Dai Do. While under heavy fire, he managed to free one of his platoons by destroying three enemy machine gun positions. He carried his injured battalion commander to safety and saved three other Marines, refusing to leave the field of battle even though he, too, was wounded.
His Medal of Honor citation provides detail:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Commanding Officer, Company G, Second Battalion, Fourth Marines, Ninth Marine Amphibious Brigade in action against enemy forces in the Republic of Vietnam from 30 April to 2 May 1968. On 1 May 1968, though suffering from wounds he had incurred while relocating his unit under heavy enemy fire the preceding day, Major (then Captain) Vargas combined Company G with two other companies and led his men in an attack on the fortified village of Dai Do. Exercising expert leadership, he maneuvered his Marines across 700 meters of open rice paddy while under intense enemy mortar, rocket and artillery fire and obtained a foothold in two hedgerows on the enemy perimeter, only to have elements of his company become pinned down by the intense enemy fire. Leading his reserve platoon to the aid of his beleaguered men, Major Vargas inspired his men to renew their relentless advance, while destroying a number of enemy bunkers. Again wounded by grenade fragments, he refused aid as he moved about the hazardous area reorganizing his unit into a strong defense perimeter at the edge of the village. Shortly after the objective was secured, the enemy commenced a series of counterattacks and probes which lasted throughout the night but were unsuccessful as the gallant defenders of Company G stood firm in their hard-won enclave. Reinforced the following morning, the Marines launched a renewed assault through Dai Do on the village of Dinh To, to which the enemy retaliated with a massive counterattack resulting in hand-to-hand combat. Major Vargas remained in the open, encouraging and rendering assistance to his Marines when he was hit for the third time in the three day battle. Observing his battalion commander sustain a serious wound, he disregarded his excruciating pain, crossed the fire -swept area and carried his commander to a covered position, then resumed supervising and encouraging his men simultaneously assisting in organizing the battalion’s perimeter defense. His gallant actions uphold the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. /s/ Richard M. Nixon
His official USMC biography follows.
Colonel Jay R. Vargas, the son of a Hispanic father and an Italian mother, who came to the United States in late 1917, retired July 1992 after more than 30 years of service in the Marine Corps. He is one of four sons that has served in the United States Armed Forces in time of war (Angelo-Iwo Jima, WWII; Frank-Okinawa, WWII; Joseph-Korea; and Jay-Vietnam). Like Col Vargas each of his brothers are decorated veterans of war.
He was born 29 July 1938 in Winslow, Arizona, and attended high school there, where he was a standout athlete, achieving All-State recognition in two sports. Attending Arizona State on an academic and athletic scholarship, he graduated in 1962 with a B.S. Degree in Education. He completed his Master of Arts Degree with “Honors” at the U.S. International University, San Diego, California.
After completing The Basic School at Quantico, Virginia, in June 1963, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. He is also a graduate of the Amphibious Warfare School, the Command and Staff College, Quantico, Virginia, and the National War College, Washington, D.C.
Colonel Vargas has served successfully as a Weapons and Rifle Platoon Commander; Rifle Company Executive Officer; three times as a Rifle Company Commander (two of which were in combat); S-3 Operations Officer; Recruit Depot Series Commander; Instructor, Staff Planning School, LFTCPAC; Headquarters Company Commander, 3d Marine Division; Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, 3d Marine Division; Aide-de-Camp to the Deputy Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific; Marine Officer Instructor, NROTC Unit, University of New Mexico; Head, Operations Branch, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington D.C.; and as the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4, 1st Marine Amphibious Force.
His decorations include: the Medal of Honor, the Silver Star, the Purple Heart w/four Gold Stars, the Combat Action ribbon, Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Unit Commendation ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal w/four Bronze Stars, the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross w/Silver Star and Palm, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Colonel Vargas is one of a few recipients in the United States to be awarded the American Academy of Achievement’s “Golden Plate Award” presented to national leaders in all professional fields.
He has also received the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Commemorative Plaque presented by the United States Collegiate Athletic Directors and Coaches, in Houston, Texas, for excelling in collegiate athletics and having made a significant contribution to his country.