Camp Pendleton dedicates post office to Medal of Honor recipients
By ERIKA I. RITCHIE | The Orange County Register (Tribune News Service) | Published: October 18, 2016
CAMP PENDLETON – Retired Marine Col. Jay R. Vargas said he felt humbled as he stood under a tarp in the rain Monday at a ceremony to name the base’s largest post office in honor of Marines and Navy corpsmen who had received the Medal of Honor.
“On behalf of the 76 living Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, I accept this,” said Vargas, who received the Medal of Honor as a captain in 1968 after the battle of Dai Do in Vietnam.
“Any time you can receive the recognition that these recipients are receiving today, it means something.”
Vargas was joined by military officers, lawmakers and community members during the dedication of the newly named Camp Pendleton Medal of Honor Post Office.
The naming is an effort to honor the service and selflessness of those who earned the country’s highest military medal, officials said. The Medal of Honor is awarded by the president in the name of Congress. Since it was first presented in 1863, the medal has been awarded to 3,498 recipients.
“This is a great day when Americans as patriots can come together and acknowledge those that have given their best effort and then some; and the many that have given their ultimate sacrifice in the service of this nation,” said Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Killea, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations West and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
“We now have a building that will memorialize and also represent those who are truly example-setters for all of us in uniform and those who take pride in this great, great nation.”
Killea thanked Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, who introduced legislation a year ago to designate the post office for Medal of Honor recipients. It was signed into law by President Barack Obama on June 13.
In his remarks, Vargas remembered retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Richard Pittman, who received the Medal of Honor on July 24, 1966. Pittman, 71, died Thursday. Services are being planned for him.
“We lost a good one,” Vargas said. “We used to call him the Camp Pendleton sheriff.”
Vargas also thanked Issa for “all you have done for us in taking care of the veterans and the wounded warriors.”
Issa, who represents California’s 49th Congressional District, which includes Camp Pendleton, South Orange County and North San Diego County, said it was important to recognize the sacrifice these heroes made.
“The men and women who’ve earned the Medal of Honor have gone above and beyond the call of duty, many even giving their own lives to save their fellow men,” he said in a statement.
Vargas said he had heard from several Medal of Honor recipients who wanted to express their thanks for the post office honor.
“This is the first time I’ve ever heard of a post office being named after Medal of Honor recipients,” he said after the ceremony. “I’m honored, I really am. It kind of humbles you.”
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U.S. Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipient Col. Jay Vargas (retired), left, and the honorable Darrell E. Issa, congressman, 49th Congressional District, unveil the plaque to commemorate the Medal of Honor post office dedication ceremony on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 17, 2016.
BRIAN BEKKALA/U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO