GARDINER — The National Sojourners Olympic Chapter 539 honored the late U.S. Navy Petty Officer Marvin G. Shields, the only Navy Seabee to receive the Medal of Honor, during an inaugural Masonic memorial service Saturday.
Bob Wheeler, president of the chapter and commander of the Marvin G. Shields Camp, said he hopes the chapter will honor Shields each year at his grave in the Gardiner Cemetery. Members of Port Angeles DeMolay and Port Angeles Rainbow for Girls, both masonic youth organizations, were also present.
“It was nice to honor a man who gave his life for his country and for us,” Wheeler said.
For Joan Shields-Bennett, Shield’s widow, it was touching to have Masonic organizations honor her late husband, who had just joined Freemasonry before being deployed to Vietnam, she said.
“It’s particularly meaningful because my family is very much a part of the Masonic organization,” she said. “It’s touching for them to remember him.”
Petty Officer 3rd Class Marvin G. Shields received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions during a battle in Dong Xoai in Vietnam on June 10, 1965.
Shields was wounded when his camp was ambushed by the 272nd Vietcong Regiment with an estimated 2,000 Vietcong soldiers. He was wounded early but continued to resupply soldiers with ammunition and carried a more critically wounded man to safety.
When the commander asked a volunteer to accompany him in an attempt to knock out an enemy machine gun emplacement, Shields “unhesitatingly” volunteered, according to the citation for his Medal of Honor.
He was mortally wounded, but he succeeded in destroying the machine gun emplacement “undoubtedly saving the lives of many of their fellow servicemen in the compound,” according to the citation.
Shields-Bennett said it’s important to honor not only her late husband, but all veterans past and present who “ensure the safety and the freedoms that we enjoy so much in America.”
“Even if you don’t give your life, you give your life every day,” she said. “You are at the government’s and your commander’s beck and call.”
Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias, who attended the ceremony, said that Shields died with valor.
“We’re here to celebrate the life, recognize the service and honor the memory of an American hero,” Ozias said. “I suspect Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Shields probably would have told us he was just doing his job that day in June of 1965.”
Ozias said that in researching the Seabees, he came to understand why Shields’ actions were likely not a surprise to those who knew him.
The Seabee motto is “can do,” Ozias said.
“Seabees believe they can do anything they are tasked to do,” Ozias said. “Marvin Shields can, he could, he did and he died.”
State Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, called Shields a “true American hero” and said his death is a story about sacrifice above self.
“Too often in today’s world we lose the message of what sacrifice above self means,” he said. “But today, we honor someone who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to others.”
Wheeler said he hopes the Sojourner chapter will host services for Shields annually, though they haven’t decided on a date yet.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].