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First Name: Jay

Last Name: Vargas

Birthplace: Winslow, AZ, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Home of Record: Winslow, AZ
Middle Name: R.

Date of Birth: 29 July 1938

Rank: Colonel

Years Served: 1963-1992
Jay R. Vargas

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Jay R. Vargas
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

Colonel Jay R. Vargas is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer who is a Medal of Honor recipient for his heroic actions during the Vietnam War. Vargas is one of four brothers who has served in combat in the U.S. Armed Forces in time of war - World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Jay R. Vargas was born on 29 July 1938 in Winslow, AZ, where he also entered the Marine Corps. After completing The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA, in June 1963, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division.

For his actions at Dai Do, Republic of Vietnam, from 30 April to 2 May 1968, Major Vargas was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard M. Nixon in a ceremony at the White House in May 1970.

Medal of Honor

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

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 Marines Corps and the United States Naval Service.


Colonel Vargas is a graduate of the Amphibious Warfare School, the Command and Staff College, Quantico, VA, and the National War College, Washington, DC.

He 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, 3rd Marine Division; Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd 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.

After almost thirty years of service in the Marine Corps, Colonel Vargas retired in from the Marine Corps in 1992.


After retirement, Vargas served as the Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs from 1993 to 1998. On 9 July 2001, Colonel Vargas was appointed to the position of Regional Veterans Liaison for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Anthony J. Principi.

The Vargas Family

Jay Vargas is one of four brothers who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces in time of war. Like Colonel Vargas, each of his brothers is a decorated veteran: Angelo at Iwo Jima in World War II; Frank at Okinawa in World War II; and Joseph in the Korean War. In honor of his mother, Vargas had her name engraved on his Medal of Honor. Because she died before he received his Medal of Honor, he requested that her name be engraved on the medal and be added to the rolls. As such, the actual recorded recipient of this Medal of Honor is "VARGAS, M. Sando."

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Silver Star Medal
Purple Heart with 4 Gold Stars
Meritorious Service Medal
Combat Action Ribbon
Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with 4 Bronze Stars
Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Silver Star and Palm
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, TX, for excelling in collegiate athletics and having made a significant contribution to his country.

Honoree ID: 1101   Created by: MHOH




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