Yesterday, Disneyland honored retired Marine Colonel Jay Vargas, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Colonel Vargas received the award from President Nixon from his service during the Vietnam War. It is the highest honor given to any service member for acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. Currently, there are only 79 living recipients, and 3,462 total recipients in history.
During the flag retreat ceremony at Disneyland, Col. Vargas was given a place of honor, and entered with the Disneyland band. He was ushered in by the Main Street fire truck, and stood by the Dapper Dans during the ceremony.
I was honored to have witnessed the event and meet Colonel Vargas. Having a Medal of Honor recipient during the flag retreat made it that much more special and honoring. A few cast members who have served this country came just to see Vargas. They also were able to stand when, during the ceremony, their is tribute given to each division of the military. It is wonderful to have them honored and have a shining moment at the park.
Colonel Vargas is a very friendly and humble man. I could tell he takes pride in having served America, and doesn’t want the award going to his head. Stopping for pictures with both children and press, it didn’t matter who it was, he just liked to meet people. He stood proud among the other veterans and cast members. Often looking at the flag, he is a patriotic man. And, he is someone who enjoys the park. In an interview, I found out that he and his wife had honeymooned at Disneyland, and even returned this week for their anniversary (see the video below).
In all, I am humbled and proud to see this event that honors a man who has served the United States valiantly and humbly. It is inspiring, and a treat in the least to have covered it. And, until next time, have a marvelous day!
ANAHEIM, Calif. – August 26, 2013 – Today during the daily Flag Retreat Ceremony at Disneyland Park, the Disneyland Resort honored retired Marine Col. Jay R. Vargas, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Nixon for his actions during the Vietnam War. Vargas and his family drove down Main Street U.S.A. in the Disneyland Fire Truck to a ceremony in his honor in Town Square. Vargas is celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife, Dottie, at the Disneyland Resort, where the couple celebrated their honeymoon.
Jay R. Vargas was born in Winslow, Arizona, the son of immigrants, an Italian mother
and Hispanic father, who came to the United States in 1917. His family taught him that
the price of success is hard work and the cost of freedom is personal sacrifice. All four
Vargas sons wore the uniform of their country in time of war: brothers Angelo and Frank
at Iwo Jima and Okinawa during World War II, Joseph in Korea, and Jay in Vietnam.
Before joining the Marines, Jay Vargas attended Northern Arizona University and
graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. He also completed a Master
of Arts in Education with honors at United States International University and earned a
Doctoral Degree from Northern Arizona University.
Colonel Vargas commanded and led Marines at every level, from Rifle Platoon to an
Infantry Regiment. His final tour of duty as a Marine Officer found him on the staff of
the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Pacific, where he served as Force Marine.
Of his many accomplishments as a Marine Officer, the most widely publicized was
achieved in combat. In the spring of 1968, while serving in the Republic of Vietnam,
Vargas’ company engaged in fierce combat with the enemy at the village of Dai Do.
During the battle, he was able to free one of his platoons, pinned down by heavy fire, by
personally destroying three enemy machine gun positions. Vargas then carried to safety
his seriously wounded battalion commander and saved seven other Marines. His actions
left 15 of the enemy dead and caused him to sustain wounds at three different times. He
refused to leave the field of battle until his injuries compelled him to do so. It was for his
actions at Dai Do that, in a May 1970 ceremony at the White House, President Richard
M. Nixon presented then Major Vargas with our nation’s highest decoration for military
valor, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Colonel Vargas’s personal decorations include the
Silver Star; the Purple Heart with four Gold Stars; the Combat Action Ribbon; the
Meritorious Service Medal; and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Silver Star and
After retiring from Marine Corps in 1993, Colonel Vargas was appointed Secretary of
the California Department of Veterans Affairs, a position he held from 1993 to 1998. In
July, 2001, the President of the United States appointed him Veterans’ Liaison for the US
Department of Veterans’ Affairs, a position in which he served until January, 2009. His
region included the 19 Western States, Guam and the Philippines.
Colonel Vargas is the recipient of the VFW’s “Veteran of the Year Award”;
AMVETS “Civil Servant-of-the-Year Award”; and the Jewish War Veterans, USA “
Citizen of the Year Award” for his dedicated service in caring for veterans. He continues
to serve as a spokesperson for Triwest Healthcare’s mental health campaign, reaching out
to both active duty military and veterans.