Medal of Honor recipient speaks to new generation of leaders

Medal of Honor recipient Col. Jay Vargas watches a video about his experience at Vietnam and the battle at Dai Do at Golden Valley High School on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. He is one of only 71 Medal of Honor recipients still alive and gave a speech to some 300 students at the school. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

The year was 1968. The Marines were outnumbered 700 people to 15,000 North Vietnamese.

“It was a fight to the death, we knew that,” said Col. Jay Vargas, a company commander at the time. “We might have killed 3,000.”

That was the battle at Dai Do—one of Vargas’ most memorable experiences from his two tours in Vietnam. He is now one of 71 Medal of Honor recipients still alive, and Golden Valley High School students welcomed him at their school Thursday.

The Medal of Honor is the highest recognition that a U.S. military service member can earn.

Vargas garnered the medal in 1970 from President Richard Nixon, but, during his speech Thursday, he didn’t focus on his experiences in the military. A video played at the beginning about him in Vietnam, but he had a different goal in mind when talking to the next generation of leaders that were sitting in the auditorium at GVHS.

The crowd applauds as Medal of Honor recipient Col. Jay Vargas gives a speech at Golden Valley High School in Canyon Country on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. He is one of 71 people still alive who have received the medal of honor and he did two tours in Vietnam including participating in the battle at Dai Do. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

He wanted to talk about character development and being a good human being.

“You all are the future of America,” he said to the some 300 students in the auditorium as he took the stage. “The part I want to leave with you is always take care of each other…always try to improve yourself.”

He appreciated the opportunity to come to Canyon Country and speak to local students.

“I am honored,” he said, “kind of humbled to.”

He donned his Medal of Honor during the speech but emphasized during an interview that he doesn’t wear it just for himself — he wears it on behalf of every American citizen.

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