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The Veterans Day ceremonies at Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial in La Jolla Nov. 11, 2015 included presentations by the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Band, the Marine Color Guard and various dignitaries.
This year’s ceremony included honoring retired Marine Col. Jay Vargas, who was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity” during a three-day battle in the fortified village of Dai Do in Vietnam from April 30 to May 2, 1968.
A Marine major at the time, Vargas — a day after suffering wounds in a separate attack — “maneuvered his Marines across 700 meters of open rice paddy while under intense enemy mortar rocket and artillery fire,” Nixon’s commendation to Vargas read. “Again wounded by grenade fragments, he refused aid as he moved about the hazardous area,” while inspiring his troops to advance, eventually leading to the security of his Marine company’s objective. Reinforced the following morning, the Marines launched a renewed assault through Dai Do on the village of Dinh To, where they encountered a counterattack resulting in hand-to-hand combat. Vargas was again hit by enemy fire, but continued to put others before himself as he carried his battalion commander to safety upon seeing he had received serious injuries.
Vargas was presented with a plaque during the ceremony, which included a keynote address from former California Governor and San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson and performances by the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Band and the Marine Color Guard.