Jay R. Vargas was born in Arizona, the son of immigrants, an Italian mother and Hispanic father, who came to the United States in 1917.
Colonel Vargas 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.
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 under attack 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 caused him to sustain wounds at three different times. It was for his actions that in a May 1970 ceremony at the White House, President Nixon presented then Major Vargas with the Congressional Medal of Honor.
In addition 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.
After retiring from the Marines in 1993, Vargas was appointed Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, a position he held until 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.
“The reason I am joining the Gary Sinise Foundation is that it does so much for all Veterans above and beyond any other organization in America. The manner in which the Foundation cares and gives so much to todays wounded Veterans is from the heart.”
— Jay R. Vargas