Medal of Honor recipient Shields remembered at Memorial Day rites in Gardiner
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Army Staff Sgt. Tristan Ryan pays her respects at the gravesite of Marvin Glenn Shields after the Monday afternoon Memorial Day ceremony in Gardiner. -- Photo by Arwyn Rice/Peninsula Daily News

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

GARDINER — On Monday, a group of veterans and relatives of veterans — including the widow of Medal of Honor recipient Marvin G. Shields — paid their respects to fallen servicemen and women at a Memorial Day service at the Gardiner Cemetery.

The tiny graveyard was dotted with flags, a testament to the number of veterans who call the Gardiner area home.

About 30 people braved wet weather to honor to those who paid the ultimate price as they served their country, including the most famous person to be interred in Gardiner — Marvin Glenn Shields.

Shields was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson for gallantry during combat.

He died at the age of 25 in Vietnam, where he was a mechanic with the Navy's Mobile Construction Battalion known as the Seabees.

Shields' Seabee team arrived to build an Army Special Forces compound in Dong Xoai, 55 miles north of Saigon, on June 10, 1965.

He was wounded when his unit came under heavy fire from a 1,500-man Viet Cong regiment.

At one point, Shields assisted in carrying a more critically wounded man to safety.

Shields then resumed firing at the enemy for four more hours.

A commander eventually asked for a volunteer to accompany him in an attempt to knock out the enemy machine gun emplacement that was assaulting their position.

Shields volunteered.

The group knocked out the gun, but Shields was shot again and this time was mortally wounded.

The ceremony was attended by Joan Shields Bennett, Shields' widow.

Shields is the only Seabee to be awarded the nation's highest medal for valor.

Bennett placed fresh flowers on her husband's headstone, then joined those who had arrived early for the ceremony, greeting many as old friends.

Many of the attendees huddled under a tent as the ceremony began.

“Conditions for the men in battle were worse than this,” Ted Mata, a member of the Sequim VFW Men's Auxiliary, told the umbrella-covered crowd as the ceremony began.

“We are here to remember those men and women who put their lives on the line, some who are still there and some who came home,” Mata said.

After a welcome and a somber prayer, wreaths and flowers were placed at the base of the flagpole by Roger Padie, commander of the Sequim Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4760, Bonnie Woeck, Ladies' Auxiliary president, and Staff Sgt. Tristan Ryan, an active-duty U.S. Army recruiter in Port Angeles and incoming post commander.

Taps was played by Mata, and at the end of the brief ceremony, the flag, at half-staff, was raised by Robert Woeck, senior vice commander of the Sequim VFW.

Many of the attendees took time before or after the ceremony to individually take a moment to salute Shields' final resting place, or to show respects and inspect other veterans' gravesites in the cemetery.

In Port Townsend on Monday, a somber ceremony was held at Pope Marine Park, with a color guard from American Legion Post 26.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 27. 2013 6:21PM
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