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Expert Leadership: Interview with Medal of Honor Recipient Jay Vargas

Wednesday December 9, 2015 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EST

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Sponsored by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation

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Medal of Honor Recipient Jay Vargas told his personal story during this special webinar presented by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation (CMOHF). This interview is an exciting learning opportunity for students. We encourage teachers and their classes, 5th grade and up, to watch  Mr. Vargas recount his experiences growing up as part of an immigrant family and share his thoughts on courage and commitment.

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.

During this webinar, Mr. Vargas discussed what the Medal of Honor means to him and how it has affected his life, adding his unique perspective on the values celebrated by the CMOHF Character Development Program. Cathy Metcalf, Vice President of Education for the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, moderated the program.

Join the Lessons of Personal Bravery and Self-Sacrifice community to participate in online discussions with peers, for invitations to upcoming webinars, to view past webinar recordings, to take a quiz and receive a CE certificate for a past webinar, and for access to more resources.

jay vergas medal of honorJay 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. Read his full citation here.

Before joining the Marines, Jay Vargas attended Northern Arizona University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. He completed a Master of Arts in Education with honors at United States International University, and earned a Doctoral Degree from Northern Arizona University.

He 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 Palm.

Colonel Vargas retired from the Marine Corps in 1993. He was then appointed Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, a position he held from 1993-98. On 9 July, 2001, the President of the United States appointed Vargas Veterans’ Liaison for the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs, as which he served until 21 January, 2009.

Jay 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, keeping a busy schedule of speaking to active duty military and veterans.

 

cathy metcalf

 

Cathy Ehlers-Metcalf joined the Medal of Honor Character Development Program as Vice President of Education in 2015.

 

 

 

WATCH THE WEBINAR RECORDING

 

20151123cmoh-eventThe Medal of Honor Character Development Program is a free resource that teaches character through stories of the Medal of Honor recipients. The CDP is a cross-curriculum supplement and complies with National/State Common Core standards. The Medal of Honor Character Development Program incorporates the ideals of courage and selfless service into the middle and high school curriculum to build character and promote responsible citizenship.  The program is FREE and includes 50+ lesson plans supported by over 100 video vignettes of the Medal of Honor Recipients themselves, as well as videos of hometown heroes selected by the Medal of Honor Recipients as “Citizen Heroes.”

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