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Only Seabee Medal of Honor Recipient Honored on Veterans Day

Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Cory Asato

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Mrs. Joan Shields-Bennett, widow of Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Glenn Shields, poses for a photo with local Seabees after a Veterans Day ceremony hosted by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Northwest at Gardiner Cemetery in Gardiner, Washington, Nov. 11, 2016. The ceremony paid tribute to the only Seabee Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam veteran, Shields, who was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest military award for his actions taken and giving his life to save comrades while under enemy attack. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Cory Asato/161111-N-OO032-227)

GARDINER, Wash. – Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest (NAVFAC NW) hosted a Veterans Day ceremony paying tribute to Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Glenn Shields at his grave site in Gardiner Cemetery, Nov. 11.

The ceremony paid tribute to the only Seabee Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam veteran, Shields, who was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest military award for his actions taken and giving his life to save comrades while under enemy attack.

“Our lives should never be so busy, that we forget to pause and remember to honor those that have gone before us,” said Capt. Chris Kurgan, a native of Illinois and NAVFAC NW commanding officer.

The ceremony opened with a benediction, parading and presenting the colors while “The Star Spangled Banner.”

“Each year we gather as a proud Seabee family, a humbled military community and a grateful nation to reflect on the service of one of our own [in Shields],” said Lt. Cmdr. Peter Ott, a Fort Collins, Colorado, native and Navy chaplain who delivered ceremonial benediction. “May today not be a day of mourning but of celebration and may we be encouraged in our own service by one who died as he lived, for his friends.”

Shields is survived by his widow Mrs. Joan Shields-Bennett, who was escorted to Washington D.C. to receive the award on his behalf.

“I so appreciate the Seabees coming here and giving all their efforts to this ceremony,” said Shields-Bennett. “It’s something to be proud of, for Marvin and for letting him be a part of their family.”

“We build, we fight” is the Seabee motto according to the Navy. “From the island hopping of World War II and the cold of Korea, to the jungles of Vietnam, to the mountains of Bosnia, and to the deserts of Afghanistan and Kuwait, the Seabees have built entire bases, bulldozed and paved thousands of miles of roadway and airstrips, and accomplished a myriad of construction projects.”

“When you spend 20 years as a Seabee, there’s not much that’ll put all of what we hold dear into perspective,” said the ceremony emcee. “We’re a small community and it means a lot to take this opportunity to honor one of our own, which allows us to also get together and experience the camaraderie that we all share.”

A formation of Seabees stood at the back of the ceremony approximately 20 yards behind the grave of Shields.

“The ceremony here touched me and put that sense of integrity and commitment displayed by Shields into our hearts,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Taniqua Morgan, a Houston native and stationed at NAVFAC NW. “This was my first time being at an event like this and it was done very well.”

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Friends and family of the local Seabee community visit the grave of Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Glenn Shields after a Veterans Day ceremony hosted by NAVFAC Northwest at Gardiner Cemetery Nov. 11, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Cory Asato/161111-N-OO032-206)

The Pacific Northwest is not the only community to pay homage to Shields.

“Seabees honor Shields throughout the year and in many ways,” Rear Adm. Troy McClelland, a native of Yakima, Washington, and Expeditionary Combat Command deputy commander. “Every Chief select aboard Naval Base Ventura County, Seabees and all Navy ratings, participate in the reenactment of the battle of Dong Xoai, the night prior to being pinned a Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy – the hallmark and dream of every Sailor in the Navy.”

The ceremony concluded with Seabees, friends and family visiting the grave of Shields. Some decided to leave a special token of tribute adorning his gravesite, from military challenge coins to patches and other mementos.

“May we be mindful that ‘with liberty and justice for all’ are not just words in a pledge, but a responsibility shared by all Americans to ensure that our communities know no stranger, but only brother and sister,” said Ott during the closing benediction. “May we join our voices together in proclaiming the legacy of all those who have gone before us to give us peace and freedom and may we join our hands and our feet in delivering that message to a despairing, restless world as we journey together into a broader vision, a new direction, a greater hope.”


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