Joan Shields-Bennett, widow of U.S. Navy Petty Officer Marvin G. Shields, speaks at a memorial service for the Medal of Honor recipient. Shields was mortally wounded in a battle in Dong Xoai, Vietnam in 1965. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Joan Shields-Bennett, widow of U.S. Navy Petty Officer Marvin G. Shields, speaks at a memorial service for the Medal of Honor recipient. Shields was mortally wounded in a battle in Dong Xoai, Vietnam in 1965. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Memorial service in Gardiner honors Medal of Honor recipient

Marvin Shields is the only Seabee to have been given the honor

GARDINER — Respect, remembrance and rays of sunshine filled the Gardiner Cemetery on Monday afternoon as a memorial service honored the life and service of U.S. Navy Petty Officer Marvin G. Shields.

The program was organized by members of the National Sojourners Olympic Chapter 539.

Shields, a construction mechanic third class, was killed at Dong Xoai in Vietnam on June 10, 1965.

Even though he had been wounded, he worked with Special Forces Second Lt. Charles Williams to destroy a Viet Cong machine gun that endangered everyone in the Army Special Forces compound.

Williams was wounded in a retaliatory attack, and Shields was wounded, shot in both legs. He was air-evacuated but died during transfer.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer spoke at the Marvin G. Shields memorial service Monday. “Every veteran should have a home and it shouldn’t be under a highway overpass,” he said. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer spoke at the Marvin G. Shields memorial service Monday. “Every veteran should have a home and it shouldn’t be under a highway overpass,” he said. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Shields was posthumously presented the Medal of Honor in 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He is the only Seabee to have been given the honor. Williams was also presented the award.

Shields’ widow, Joan Shields-Bennett, thanked those in attendance for remembering her husband’s service.

“It’s not hard to let you know how much it means to me to have you here,” Shields-Bennett told those gathered. “It’s been a long time since he’s been gone.”

Two months ago she attended a re-enactment of his battle in Dong Xoai at Port Hueneme in California.

“It was amazing. They had an acre of land where they had trenches built. There were two men that had white shirts on with the names Shields and Williams so you could pick out and see what they were doing.

“It did affect me. It clarified to me and made it easier for me to see what he had done. To see it played out in front of me. To make all of us to understand what this Seabee has done.”

Jefferson County Commissioner Kathleen Kler said she did not understand the impact of her protests during the Vietnam War until she went to the country and experienced the jungle for herself. She said she has asked for forgiveness for not truly understanding what is asked of those who serve. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Jefferson County Commissioner Kathleen Kler said she did not understand the impact of her protests during the Vietnam War until she went to the country and experienced the jungle for herself. She said she has asked for forgiveness for not truly understanding what is asked of those who serve. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer said he has been thinking about Shields’ life and how it was well-lived.

“His story is important all these years later because his uncommon actions of selflessness and sacrifice are woven into America’s identity,” Kilmer said. “His headstone says, ‘He died as he lived, for his friends.’ ”

“Marvin is the first and only Seabee to receive the Medal of Honor. Their motto is ‘Can do. The difficult we do now, the impossible takes a little longer.’

“You deserve a [Veterans Affairs] that has the motto ‘Can Do.’ Imagine if the Seabees were tasked with building the community outpatient clinic in Kitsap County. It would have happened years ago.

“Every veteran should have a home and it shouldn’t be under a highway overpass.”

Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias and Jefferson County Commissioner Kathleen Kler speak with Joan Shields-Bennett at the memorial for her husband, U.S. Navy Petty Officer Marvin G. Shields, who died during the Vietnam War. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias and Jefferson County Commissioner Kathleen Kler speak with Joan Shields-Bennett at the memorial for her husband, U.S. Navy Petty Officer Marvin G. Shields, who died during the Vietnam War. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

State Rep. Steve Tharinger said that “even as contentious as the election was last week, those in uniform and those in the military are the reason why we have free and fair elections.

“That valor, that work, that effort is why we stand here, to protect those freedoms. You have made huge sacrifices, and Martin made the ultimate sacrifice. We need to not forget.”

State Rep. Mike Chapman said Veterans Day means a lot to him.

“My father-in-law was a World War II veteran,” Chapman said. “While we’re here to celebrate Marvin and his sacrifice, this whole weekend is about the sacrifice of so many who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

“On this particular Veterans Day weekend, I couldn’t help but to be struck by the words of President Ronald Regan shared for the 40th D-Day anniversary.

“ ‘At dawn on the morning of June 6, 1944, 225 rangers jumped off the landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs … these are the champions who helped free a continent; these are the heroes who helped end a war.’

The Retrieving of the Colors ceremony concluded the memorial service for U.S. Navy Petty Officer Marvin G. Shields on Monday at the Gardiner Cemetery. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

The Retrieving of the Colors ceremony concluded the memorial service for U.S. Navy Petty Officer Marvin G. Shields on Monday at the Gardiner Cemetery. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

“That to me is the essence of Veterans Day weekend and why we pause to say thank you from a grateful heart for the men and women who serve and to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

Jefferson County Commissioner Kathleen Kler spoke about her own experience with the Vietnam War and how it shaped her respect for those in uniform.

“As an 18-year-old, I was one of those young protesters against the government,” she said. “Not fully realizing until years later how I added to the emotional wounds of those who fought a controversial war. I did not understand until years later when I was with my 19-year-old son trekking in the jungle on the Laos border.

“We were being led by a younger boy clearing the trail. The heat. The humidity. The guide’s fear of snakes. The dense green foliage and the hanging vines. The strange unfamiliar sounds that surrounded us.

“Without the magnified fear of having a camouflaged silent enemy watching, suddenly I felt viscerally the claustrophobic disorientation that was our soldiers’ battlefield in Vietnam.”

Kler said she has asked forgiveness for not truly understanding what is asked of those who serve.

“Only those who have walked though those fires know the scarring heat,” she said. “For each war, for each battle whether won or lost, there are untold stories needing compassionate, non-judging ears to hear. There’s always more valor than we can officially recognize.

“There is courage in keeping promises to live, even when ghosts beckon you to surrender.”

As an elected official, Kler said they are the ones who need to provide the housing, and the medical and mental health access to honor beyond all medals the men and women who responded in duty and still bare the consequences.

Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias said he learned something he did not know about his family.

“My grandfather served in World War II in the Pacific in the Navy. But, of course, like many of his generation, he didn’t share those stories with his family.

“ ‘Mark, your grampy was a Seabee,’ my dad told me. He was in Oahu in 1944, to prepare for the invasion of Okinawa. It was an 82-day battle. The Seabees played an important part, tasked to repair and build facilities.

“I want to honor Charles Ozias Jr.’s service, my nephew Tyler in Afghanistan who is a combat engineer, and my nephew, Bryce, who is learning to be a signalman in the United States Navy,” Ozias said.

Jim McEntire, a retired Coast Guard captain, focused his remarks on the word ‘duty.’

“Marvin 53 years ago lost his life, and the Medal of Honor citation reads ‘distinguished by his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.’

“Marvin, the ordinary guy that he was, did an extraordinary thing that day.”

Betsy Schultz is the mother of Capt. Joseph Schultz, a special forces Green Beret killed in Afghanistan in 2011. She is the founder of the nonprofit Captain Joseph House Foundation that will provide Gold Star families a respite and retreat in Port Angeles.

Schultz said seven years ago she was asked to address a crowd but felt like she was in a fog. As the audience applauded her words she said she felt “wrapped in the arms of a loving family, one of the largest families I’ll ever know.

“I found on that day, the remembrance of all those who have served.

“A time for stories about family legacies of those who served and given their lives.

“My father was a paratrooper in World War II, and he never shared his experiences. I found a box of letters that he sent home to his family. That’s how I learned.

“It is our responsibility to remember the families of the fallen,” Schultz said.

________

Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]

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