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Salutes for service men and women

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by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

“USA,USA, USA,” chanted students standing on the blacktop at Greywolf Elementary School as an MIT 65-Dolphin helicopter swirled above their heads.

 

U.S. Coast Guardsmen out of Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles lowered a support for a rescue doll dressed in a school T-shirt held by Lt. Jason Smith as part of the school’s Veterans Day assembly on Nov. 9.

 

The rescue demonstration met with loud cheers and showed students appreciate their country’s service men and women.

 

Across Sequim and Gardiner, schools and other organizations celebrated Veterans Day to honor the fallen and those who served and continue to serve in the armed forces.  

 

Veterans Day, renamed from Armistice Day in 1954, honors veterans annually on Nov. 11 in the U.S. It’s also the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.

 

As it is a national holiday, schools were out for the momentous 11-11-11 but held events days earlier.

 

After the helicopter demo, students and veterans gathered inside Greywolf’s gym for patriotic songs such as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

 

Helen Haller Elementary hosted two assemblies with first-graders singing “I Love My Country,” second-graders “This Land Is Your Land,” third-graders “This is My Country,” fourth-graders “America,” and fifth-graders “America the Beautiful.”

 

Sequim Middle School saw a presentation about life aboard the USS John C. Stennis out of Bremerton, which is deployed to the Gulf of Oman with more than 5,000 U.S. Navy sailors.  

 

Students made hundreds of holiday cards for sailors missing the holidays while on deployment. Sequim residents Caity and Burt Karapostoles’ son Lt. Chris Karapostoles is on the ship with the VFA 97 Warhawks.  

 

At the assembly, visiting veterans and staff members were honored along with students’ family members in a slide show.

 

Sequim High School students gathered for the “Star-Spangled Banner” by the Men’s Select Choir and “God Bless America” by the school’s combined Select Choir.

 

Veteran visitors and staff also were honored. Colleen McAleer, who served 10 years in the U.S. Army, and U.S. Coast Guard Seaman John Textor, a 2010 Sequim grad, gave speeches on their service time.

 

In the community, veterans handed out free cake at Sequim Safeway on Veterans Day, with donations benefiting the Veterans of Foreign Wars to help veterans and their families. Prairie Springs Assisted Living hosted a free luncheon for the community in honor of the holiday.

Hero honored

Sailors from Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Joint Base Lewis McChord and across the U.S. honored local hero and U.S. Navy Seabee Marvin Glenn Shields, a construction mechanic third class, for the ninth consecutive year in Gardiner Cemetery.

 

The Naval Seabee Veterans Association Island 11 hosted the event on Veterans Day for the Medal of Honor recipient’s actions of going beyond the call of duty on June 10, 1965, with U.S. Navy Seabee Team 1104 in Dong Xoai, Republic of Vietnam.

 

While wounded, Shields supplied fellow Americans with ammunition to return fire against the Viet Cong for about three hours before those forces launched a large, close-range attack. Shields, wounded a second time, assisted in carrying a more critically wounded man to safety and returning fire for four more hours. Without hesitation, he volunteered to accompany his commander to take out a machine gun emplacement with a rocket launcher. They succeeded but Shields was mortally wounded by enemy fire when returning to the defense.

 

President Lyndon John-son awarded the Medal of Honor to Shields posthumously on Sept. 13, 1966. Shields remains the only Seabee to receive the medal.

 

For the Gardiner ceremony, Shields’ widow, Joan Shields Bennett of Gardiner, was at the cemetery with her husband, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Dick Bennett.

 

“To me it shows how much the Seabees regard Marvin,” she said of the ceremony. “I truly appreciate their effort and hope they’ll keep doing it after I’m gone. Marvin would be embarrassed by all this. He was a humble man. He would want all veterans to be remembered.”

 

Following the Gardiner ceremony, Shield Bennett’s family and friends, along with the sailors, visited Fat Smitty’s for their annual luncheon. She said she and Shields went there as teenagers when it was Curly’s.

On hand for the ceremony were Seabee Force Master Chief Ray Dickey from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., and Seabee Master Chief Dan Dehler from NAVFAC Atlantic in Norfolk, Va.

 

More military personnel in attendance were Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Unit 303 Detachment, active duty at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor; Reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 18-Tacoma from Joint Base Lewis McChord; NAVFAC Northwest-Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest from Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, Naval Base Kitsap Bremerton, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and Naval Station Everett, which includes enlisted Seabees, civil engineering corps officers and civilian employees.  

Shields also was honored Friday with an induction into the Seattle Veterans Administration Puget Sound Health Care System’s “Wall of Heroes.”

 

Next year, Veterans Day is observed on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, because Nov. 11 falls on a Sunday.

 

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