GARDINER — Flowers and a wreath were laid upon the grave of Navy Petty Officer Marvin G. Shields in Gardiner Cemetery in a ceremony that was an abbreviated version of the annual event due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Shields, a construction mechanic third class, is the only Navy Seabee to have received the Medal of Honor.
He was posthumously given the award by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 for his actions near Dong Xoai, Vietnam, on June 9, 1965. He was killed after carrying a wounded soldier to safety and helping to knock out a machine gun emplacement. He was 25.
About 40 military and community members attended the Veterans Day ceremony honoring Shields, a native of the Port Townsend and Sequim areas.
Federal COVID-19 prevention protocols limited the gathering to fewer than 50 for military personnel.
Before the pandemic, the annual ceremony typically would have drawn more than 100 people.
Shields’ widow, Joan Shields Bennett, appreciated the work the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Northwest members put into the condensed ceremony, including the extra effort to have it a day early this year to comply with the capacity restrictions.
“I’m so pleased they worked it around to be a day early,” she said. “For them to take that effort would be really appreciated by Marvin.”
In the condensed ceremony, a wreath and flowers were placed on Shields’ grave as an account of his actions in Vietnam was given, followed by a reading of “The Watch” and the playing of the bugle call taps.
Shields Bennett will gather with retired Seabees today in honor of Shields and Veterans Day.
“Seabees are truly a family for me,” she said.
Late at night on June 9, 1965, Shields’ camp was awakened by an attack of more than 2,000 Viet Cong. The firefight lasted through the night and for most of the next day. Shields helped run ammunition to U.S. military members engaged in the fight, ensuring they didn’t run out.
Even though he had been wounded, he volunteered to work with Special Forces 2nd Lt. Charles Williams to destroy a Viet Cong machine gun nest that endangered everyone in the Army Special Forces compound.
Shields was shot in both legs and Williams also was wounded in a retaliatory attack. Shields was air-evacuated after the battle, having suffered a third wound, but he died during transfer.
Williams also received the Medal of Honor.
The ceremony at the Gardiner Cemetery honored the sacrifice that Shields made and also those that other veterans have made or are currently making in the line of duty, participants said.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]