Capt. Christ Kurgan crosses himself beside the grave of Medal of Honor recipient Marvin Shields during the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Gardiner Cemetery on Friday. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Capt. Christ Kurgan crosses himself beside the grave of Medal of Honor recipient Marvin Shields during the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Gardiner Cemetery on Friday. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

‘He died for love’: Medal of Honor recipient honored at his grave

GARDINER — Community members, local veterans and members of the United States Army and Navy gathered on Veterans Day to honor the nation’s only Navy Seabee Medal of Honor recipient, Marvin G. Shields of Port Townsend, at his grave in the Gardiner Cemetery in Sequim.

The ceremony, held Friday, has been an annual event for eight years, but, according to Shield’s widow, Joan Shields Bennett, this year’s event was something special because service members from Whidbey and Everett paid tribute to Shield’s service.

“I am awestruck,” she said. “This year was better than normal, and to have all these men who respect my husband come out and do this is truly special.”

Petty Officer 3rd Class Marvin Shields was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the June 1965 battle at Dong Xoai in Vietnam.

“I don’t think anyone aspires to the Medal of Honor,” said Capt. Chris Kurgan at the ceremony. “It’s something that happens in battle, but if you look at the inscription on his grave, it says, ‘He died the way he lived, for his friends.’

“He died for love.”

Retired Adm. Troy McClelland, a Port of Everett commissioner who spoke during Friday’s ceremony, said Shields was wounded during battle but continued to do what he could by resupplying his fellow soldiers with ammunition and helping carry more critically wounded soldiers out of harm’s way.

Shields then volunteered to assist his officer in destroying an enemy machine gun with a rocket launcher. The two were successful, but Shields was fatally wounded while attempting to return to the defensive line.

Shields is one of 3,498 Medal of Honor recipients awarded since the American Civil War. He is one of only 53 recipients from Washington state and one of four who called the Olympic Peninsula their home, Kurgan noted.

Marvin Shields Memorial Post 26 of the American Legion also hosted a Veterans Day ceremony in Port Townsend on Friday. A concert by the Port Townsend Summer Band preceded a ceremony where 25 local veterans were presented with a quilt from the Quilts of Valor Foundation, a national group providing quilts for those touched by war.

The ceremony to honor Shields was started when Shields Bennett moved back to the area, according to Leslie Yuenger, the public affairs officer for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

After the ceremony, many of the service members in attendance stayed at the cemetery.

Some took photos with Shields’ decorated gravesite.

Others left coins — adding to an already extensive collection of military challenge coins sent in from across the United States to honor Shields — and some shook hands with or hugged the multiple generations of Shields’ family in attendance.

“They welcome me like I’m a part of the family, and that means a lot to me,” said Shields Bennett.

“I know Marvin is looking down on us.”

_________

Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

Joan Shields, the widow of Medal of Honor recipient Marvin Shields, stands beside his grave with a group of local servicemen who came out on Veterans Day to honor her late husband’s service Friday. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Joan Shields, the widow of Medal of Honor recipient Marvin Shields, stands beside his grave with a group of local servicemen who came out on Veterans Day to honor her late husband’s service Friday. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Marvin G. Shields of Port Townsend was honored Friday during an annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Gardiner Cemetery. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Marvin G. Shields of Port Townsend was honored Friday during an annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Gardiner Cemetery. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

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