Flag Flies for Paul Dargan

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In continuing its mission to take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year, the Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to Vietnam War veteran Paul Dargan by flying an American flag in his honor throughout the month of September.

“The district is proud to honor Mr. Dargan for his bravery and service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen.

Mr. Dargan was honored at a ceremony held Sept. 9 at Hampton Bays Elementary School, during which the heroes of Sept. 11 were recognized as well. Fourth-graders read Mr. Dargan’s bio, recited patriotic poems that they had penned and sang “Peace Starts Within,” an original song written by Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. The ceremony culminated with the raising of the flag on the district’s flagpole.

United States Marine Corps Sergeant Paul Dargan was born in Brooklyn on Aug. 27, 1946. After his father passed away, his family moved to Hampton Bays in 1957, where he went on to graduate from Hampton Bays High School, Class of ’66.

On June 29, 1966, Mr. Dargan enlisted in the Marine Corps and underwent basic infantry training at Parris Island, South Carolina. After graduation, he was transferred to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and assigned to a recon unit for specialized training, which at the time was in desert warfare, in anticipation of assisting Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Since U.S. assistance wasn’t needed in the Middle East, Mr. Dargan’s unit was reassigned to Western Pacific Command. They were then trained at Camp Lejeune in mountain warfare. When training was complete, Mr. Dargan was granted leave to Hampton Bays for a short visit. Upon his return to Camp Lejeune, his unit flew to Vietnam via Okinawa, Japan. They arrived at Da Nang, Republic of South Vietnam, in late June.

Mr. Dargan's unit was Bravo Company, 3rd Recon Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment. They were flown to Khe Sanh (KAY SAHN), an old volcano that had been a French outpost in the mid-1950s. Khe Sanh could only be reached by air because the enemy had cut off roads and bridges. It was close to both the demilitarized zone and the border of Laos.

The job of recon units, and Mr. Dargan’s eight-member squad, was to locate the enemy in enemy territory. They searched for soldiers, equipment and types of transportation like jeeps, trucks and even elephants. Unknown to Mr. Dargan and his fellow Marines, the enemy had two infantry divisions, two artillery (big cannons) regiments and an armored tank regiment in the area — approximately 20,000 enemy soldiers against roughly 6,000 Marines.

The infamous Battle of Khe Sanh began on Jan. 20, 1968. The outpost was bombarded by the enemy, who aimed for the ammunition supply. Since the command knew an attack was imminent, the Marines were told to sleep with "their boots on." The Marines reinforced their bunkers with pieces of portable runway and covered them with sandbags. During this time, Mr. Dargan was on patrol when his squad came upon a new trail not on the map. They waited and set up a land mine. As Mr. Dargan was backing off, he heard a twig snap and saw the silhouette of an enemy soldier. He quickly warned his patrol.

During the siege, Mr. Dargan was wounded in the chest and leg by shrapnel. He refused the Purple Heart award and continued duty as a Marine. At the end of the siege, the Marines went to the Quang Tri (KWANG TREE) province for rest and recuperation. It was at that time that the unit chaplain held a memorial ceremony for the 19 Marines from Bravo Company who were killed in action. Rifles were placed bayonet first into the ground with helmets placed on top. Mr. Dargan took several photos to honor his friends.

Following the war, Mr. Dargan's photos were put on display at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison, Wisconsin. More than 40 years later, he met Steve Alpert, an artist from Quogue, and shared his photos, telling Alpert, "I have your next military painting."

The result was the painting "Journey of Souls," which now hangs in the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia.

Mr. Dargan was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in October 1969 and returned to Hampton Bays. There, he met Diana "Dee" Penny when they played tennis together. It was love at first sight. They built their own home and raised two daughters, Kalen and Lindsay, and a son, Ryan. They have four grandchildren: Kaya, Carissa, Vasili and Niko. Mrs. Dargan taught in Hampton Bays and even taught Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen.

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