Donnie Shue Comes Home From Vietnam, 42 Years After Death
In 1969, Army Sgt. 1st Class Donnie Shue of Concord was on a secret mission in Laos. He ied in battle and was lost. His remains were found in 2009, along with a lighter with his name engraved. His remains were positively identified in January. On Sunday, after 42 years, he was finally laid to rest. He arrived Saturday in an estimated 9-mile procession. Some 2-thousand motorcycles led a black hearse that carried Donnie Shue to ceremonies in downtown Concord and Kannapolis. "Today, from where I stand, as far as I can see, I see people far down Union Street," Concord Mayor Scott Padgett said Saturday. "We're joined by a huge group of people who respect his service and sacrifice, some who traveled thousands and thousands of miles to pay their respects." Two years ago, Peggy Hinson got a call she thought she would never receive. One of her sisters was on the other line. She said the Defense Department's POW/MIA section believed their brother had been found, by a local villager digging for scrap metal. They "balled and squalled," as Hinson put it. Closure was on its way. Donnie Shue was 20 when he died. He was just 17 when he enlisted. He dropped out of high school to join the army. "He begged daddy and begged daddy, and I think he cried on his knees. So daddy signed for him. And when he come up missing, he stood out in the yard," Hinson says. Their dad was crying. They had ever seen him cry. Peggy says their father blamed himself and lost the will to live. He died in 1971, never knowing what happened to his son. Officially, Donnie was listed as missing in action. His mother, Nellie, held out hope, until her death in 1981, that he was still alive, maybe in a prison camp in Southeast Asia. But Donnie's fellow soldiers knew he was dead, they just couldn't say anything. That's because they were Green Berets, fighting a secret war in Laos and Cambodia. It was their job to disrupt North Vietnamese supply lines coming from those countries. Like her mother, Peggy Hinson also held out hope, even after the military presumed he was dead and changed his status to killed in action in 1979. "I just couldn't believe that he was dead. I just couldn't. It never entered my mind," Hinson says. She recalls Donnie as a fun-loving kid with a magnetic personality. He had four sisters. Peggy laughs and she recalls how he would go out dancing with his sister Nancy. "They just have a ball, and they would dance. Oh honey! You talk about (John) Travola and Swayze, what was his name?" Patrick Swayze. "Yeah. Honey, this boy could get down and do it. They would get out on the dance floor and everybody would stop dancing and stand around, looking at them. I mean in Charlotte and all around. And they just loved it." He also loved to sing. "This one guy, he was in the barracks with Donnie. He said Donnie would wake up every morning, going down through there, first one up, singing On the Docks of the Bay. He said he would just sing that all the way through. I said, that's him!" Throughout the 1970s, it was common to see people in Concord wearing a metal POW/MIA bracelet with his name. A cherry tree was planted in front of the post office in his honor. It still blooms today.