News: Medal of Honor recipient bonds with 3/5
Story by Cpl. Paul Basciano
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – The Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment’s brushed shoulders with a living legend, when Medal of Honor recipient and retired Col. Jay Vargas came to the San Mateo area of Camp Pendleton to talk with 3/5 Marines, Jan. 27.
Vargas earned the nation’s highest honor in 1968 at Dai Do, Vietnam. His citation cited after suffering wounds during the previous day’s battle, Vargas was able to consolidate forces and lead an attack on the fortified village of Dai Do. He was wounded a second time, refused aid and continued to lead, setting up a strong defense outside the city.
Enemy forces counterattacked all through the night, but Vargas and his Marines renewed their assault, attacking through Dai Do and the village of Dinh, fighting off vicious counterattacks with hand to hand combat. During combat, Vargas, who sustained a third wound, saw his battalion commander seriously wounded. Vargas disregarded his own wounds and took the injured battalion commander to safety and resumed command of his men.
Being a former 5th Marine Regiment man and hearing about 3/5 fighting in one of the toughest areas of operation in southern Afghanistan, Vargas wanted to help.
“You might think that [the Marines of 3/5] are proud to have me here, but I am more proud to be here with you,” Vargas said.
Lance Cpl. Jared Pinkerton, a rifleman with 3/5, was inspired from the meeting.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said Pinkerton. “It makes me want to keep serving.”
Other Marines were surprised how they could bond with a Vietnam veteran like Vargas.
“I like the way he came and connected with guys over 40 years later,” said Lance Cpl. Cody Goebel, a machine gunner with 3/5. “He can relate to what I’ve been through.”
After talking with the Marines about his experiences and answering a few questions, Vargas went through the crowd of Marines shaking their hands and chatted with them individually.
At the end of the day, the Marines of 3/5 left motivated and Vargas left proud to be a part of “Fighting Fifth” history.