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Honoring Marvin Shields’ Legacy

Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Batchelder, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Det. Northwest

GARDINER, Wash. – Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Northwest held a Veteran’s Day memorial ceremony honoring Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Glenn Shields at his grave site in Gardiner Cemetery, Nov. 11.

Seabees assigned to Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest stand in formation during a memorial honoring Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Glenn Shields at Gardiner Cemetery. 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 and for giving his life to save comrades while under enemy attack. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan J. Batchelder)

Shields was the first and only Seabee to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He was also the first Sailor to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism above and beyond the call of duty in the Vietnam War.

“Because of the service and sacrifice of our veterans, we live in the strongest, the freest, and the greatest nation in the history of the world,” said Rear Adm. John Korka, Commander, NAVFAC Pacific. “There is no finer example of valor, patriotism, and noble service than that of Marvin Shields.”

After his death from wounds sustained while defending his position and comrades in the battle of Dong Xoai on June 9, 1965, Shields was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest honor, by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966.

“No one aspires to receive the Medal of Honor. I believe that It happens out of love. “said Capt. Christopher Kurgan, commanding officer of NAVFAC Northwest. “If you look at Marvin’s gravestone, it reads, ‘He died as he lived. For his friends.’ He sacrificed everything for the ideals of freedom, his country, his family, and his friends.”

Born in Port Townsend, Wash., Shields lived on Discovery Bay in Gardiner.

After graduating high school and working at a gold mining project in Hyder, Alaska, he enlisted in the United States Navy as a Seabee in 1962 and married his wife Joan that same year.

“We should all understand what a big sacrifice that everyone who puts on the uniform makes every day,” said Joan Bennett-Shields, widow of Marvin Shields. “Today’s ceremony was fantastic. [Rear] Adm. Korka touched me deeply by not only remembering the men and women who serve but also the family who supports them.”

Recognizing Shields, as well as three other Medal of Honor recipients, the state of Washington passed legislation in 2015 to rename a part of a U.S. state highway as a tribute to their sacrifices to our nation.

Mrs. Joan Shields-Bennett, widow of Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Glenn Shields, observes the parading of the colors during a memorial honoring Shields at Gardiner Cemetery.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan J. Batchelder)

“Coming here this morning, it’s always a solemn drive across the four-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 101 that was renamed to the North Olympic Peninsula Medal of Honor Memorial Highway,” said Kurgan. “It’s a good reminder for all of us to not forget where our freedom comes from as well as the blessings we have as citizens of this great nation. Today, Marvin is our reminder.”

The significance of memorials held not just on Veteran’s Day, but every day around the country, remind us of the service members who have paid the ultimate price and gave their lives for their country. Often, wounds not only reside with the casualties and their commands, but exist and resonate for far longer back home, according to Shields-Bennett.

“He led a humble life and loved everybody,” said Bennett-Shields. “He was willing to sacrifice his life, and mine, not only in the biggest way, but in an everyday way to make sure those around him felt loved. It’s a great message for the world we live in today and I believe it’s his legacy: ‘He died as he lived. For his friends.’”

Capt. Christopher Kurgan, Commanding Officer, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest, kneels in prayer during a memorial honoring Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Glenn Shields at Gardiner Cemetery. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan J. Batchelder)

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