Archive for April, 2011

April 30, 2011

41 years later, brave son and soldier comes home from Laos

Remains of Army sergeant killed during Vietnam War in 1969 will return to Cabarrus County Saturday.

By David Perlmutt
Posted: Friday, Apr. 29, 2011

Donnie Shue, who grew up in Concord and Kannapolis wanting to be a Green Beret, got his chance in Vietnam. Courtesy Shue Family

The bronze plaque planted in the ground has marked Donnie Shue’s grave in Concord since 1979. It’s been empty all that time, awaiting the body.

Unknown to his family, Shue was killed a decade earlier on Nov. 3, 1969, a fearless 20-year-old Army Green Beret on a secret, dangerous mission during the Vietnam War.

For those 10 years, the military listed Shue as missing in action. His father, Wesley, blamed himself for letting his son enlist and died of “a broken heart” in 1971. His mother, Nellie, pushed the Army to keep searching for answers.

She never got them.

Yet Saturday, 41 years after he died in an ambush in the jungled mountains of Laos, the remains of Sgt. 1st Class Donald Monroe Shue will be returned to Cabarrus County in a procession from Charlotte’s Army National Guard Armory that will be led by hundreds of motorcycle riders.

Sunday, Shue’s surviving sisters will hold a funeral, then bury the remains. And, finally, the grave at Carolina Memorial Park will be empty no more.

“It’s been a long journey,” said sister Peggy Hinson, 73, of Kannapolis, wiping away tears at her brother’s grave this week. “But I’m at peace now that Donnie’s coming home and not in a foreign land, thrown up on some hill.”

They say Donnie Shue had a smile that lit up a room.

He was the baby, born in Concord 12 years after twin sisters, Peggy and Nancy, a generation after oldest sisters, Betty and Helen.

When Donnie was born, brother Billy was dying of diphtheria. He became his parents’ pride and joy, Peggy said.

Like many Carolinas mill-town boys, Donnie grew up fast. He loved powerful cars. Girls. And dancing to the Tams at Park Center (now Grady Cole) in Charlotte. Best of all, he loved drag racing his 160cc Ducati motorcycle, or sister Nancy’s powder blue Pontiac Bonneville convertible, with its three double-barrel carburetors.

Monty Clark met Donnie riding motorcycles. He instantly was impressed with Donnie’s ease with girls.

They’d ride to Myrtle Beach, or to Park Center, and wherever they stopped, Donnie drew a crowd. “He was charismatic, handsome. Blond,” said Monty, now of Albemarle.

It was 1967. Donnie was in 11th grade at A.L. Brown High, where he’d transferred from Concord High after his parents – lifelong workers at Cannon Mills – moved to Kannapolis.

Vietnam was heating up, and so were anti-war protests.

Donnie and Monty talked about joining the Army together. Donnie dreamed of fighting in Special Forces, wearing their green beret.

He started pestering his father to sign enlistment papers.

His father resisted. “But Donnie would get on his knees and beg, or throw his arms around Daddy’s neck,” Peggy said. “Daddy finally signed.”

Soon Donnie was puttering off to Fort Bragg on his Ducati. He was barely 18.

Charlotte's Ann Hooper wore two POW/MIA bracelets in the 1970s. One was for Donald Shue. Todd Sumlin - CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

The Green Beret

Donnie consumed Army life, and became a Green Beret.

While Monty learned history and algebra, Donnie was learning guerrilla warfare, Morse code and the cultures and dialects of Vietnam.

On leave, he’d ride home to be with his family.

During one visit, Donnie went to see Monty early one morning. Monty, bleary-eyed and “in my skivvies,” opened the door and found himself on the ground wrestling Donnie.

“He said, ‘I just finished guerrilla warfare training and I wanted to show you I could whup ya,'” Monty said. “He loved everything about being a Green Beret.”

On another leave, Donnie met Carol Hughes in Myrtle Beach and, on an impulse, married her. Soon, he was sent to Okinawa, Japan, to prepare for Vietnam. Carol followed.

In the last letter to Monty, Donnie wrote he was headed for Vietnam for 90 to 120 days.

“The next word I got, he was MIA,” Monty said.

The battle

Donnie’s parents never knew what happened. Until now, his sisters didn’t either.

John Meyer was a Green Beret on his second tour when he met Donnie at a Special Forces operations base in Da Nang in South Vietnam.

“He could have been a Green Beret poster child,” said Meyer, now of Oceanside, Calif.

At that time, Special Forces troops were involved in the CIA-backed “secret war” in Laos and Cambodia, both neutral, but overrun by communist troops from North Vietnam, said Meyer, who’s written a book about the missions.

Teams of Green Berets and native troops were secretly inserted into Laos to gather information on the enemy. The Americans went without identification, agreeing not to discuss the missions for 20 years.

Donnie was assigned to “team Maryland” with two other Green Berets, Gunther Wald and Bill Brown, and six Montagnards, natives who helped U.S. forces. On Nov. 3, 1969, they were inserted by helicopter 30 miles inside Laos.

That day, word came that they’d been hit. The last radio transmission – “here they come again” – could have been Donnie or Wald, Meyer said.

“Then we heard the AK-47s,” he said.

Four Montagnards escaped to report the ambush. Bad weather delayed a rescue by eight days. By then, there was no sign of the Americans.

The bracelet

When the Army officers knocked at the door in Kannapolis, Wesley Shue cried. He was never the same, blaming himself for Donnie’s death. He died two years later.

His mother, too, was devastated. But she became a POW/MIA activist and sold bracelets with Donnie’s name and the names of other Americans missing or held captive in Vietnam – designed to bring attention to their plight.

In the early 1970s, Ann Hooper of Charlotte wore a silver-colored MIA bracelet with the name: S/Sgt. Donald Shue. And a date: 11-3-69.

Hooper had graduated from college in 1971. Her roommate was from Concord, so she spent a lot of time there and met many of Donnie’s friends.

“Several of us wore his bracelet,” she said. “The idea was to wear it until the soldier came home.”

Eventually, she took hers off, but kept it in a jewelry box. She never knew Donnie, but plans to attend the funeral – and offer the bracelet to a relative.

The harsh truth

In 1973, his mother persuaded the Concord post office to install a plaque honoring her son and the other American MIAs and POWs. She picked out a cherry tree to plant beside it.

And she kept pursuing answers. In 1979, after 10 years as an MIA, the Army’s 11th report officially changed Donnie’s status to “presumed dead.” Donnie’s wife, Carol, bought a plot and a bronze plaque at Carolina Memorial Park.

After his mother died two years later wearing Donnie’s MIA bracelet, the sisters accepted a harsh truth: They might never find their brother.

The discovery

The Vietnam War ended 36 years ago Saturday when the last Americans were plucked from a fallen Saigon.

Yet for families of POWs and MIAs, it still goes on.

They rely on what is now the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and its searches for Americans lost in conflicts.

After boundaries were redrawn and the region where Donnie and his two comrades were killed was transferred to Vietnam, forensic teams were free to search.

Over the years, villagers found human remains. In 2008, a team found Bill Brown’s dog tag. A year later, an American team found real evidence: Donnie’s Zippo cigarette lighter with his name engraved. Soon, JPAC called his sister Betty Jones of Kannapolis. They believe they’d found Donnie’s remains and wanted her DNA to confirm.

“Betty screamed into the phone: ‘No! No, no, no!’ She didn’t want to be put through this again if it wasn’t Donnie,” Peggy said.

Another relative sent DNA. The remains were confirmed.

The salute

Each Memorial Day, Monty Clark plants flags at Donnie’s plaque in Concord. Saturday, he’ll be on his motorcycle alongside the hearse.

And Sunday, John Meyer, the former Green Beret from California, expects to be with other Green Berets at Whitley’s Funeral Home in Kannapolis. He is scheduled to speak.

“When I heard that Donnie was coming home, I knew we had to be there to salute him,” he said.

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April 30, 2011

Family buries remains of Special Forces soldier who disappeared 40 years ago in Laotian jungle

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By Associated Press, Updated: Friday, April 29, 12:36 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — No one had seen Sgt. 1st Class Donald Shue since he was on a mission in Laos during the Vietnam War in November 1969, so his sister was skeptical when Army officials called a few months ago to say his remains had been found.

“I said, ‘No you didn’t. I don’t believe it. It’s been 42 years. You don’t have any proof of that,’” his sister Betty Jones told The Associated Press. Then they revealed the clue that identified Shue: a Zippo lighter with his name inscribed on it.

Army officials visited her home and showed her the lighter. When she saw it, she broke down and cried.

“That was the most joyful thing I ever looked at. I knew it was Donnie,” she said.

Now, four decades later, the North Carolina soldier is coming home. Thousands are expected to pay their respects this weekend in Concord, where Shue was born, and nearby Kannapolis, where he was raised. Jones, 74, of Kannapolis, called the burial a homecoming.

“We’ve been praying and praying and praying for this day,” Jones said. “This will finally give us some closure.”

Shue will be honored by family, friends, veterans groups and politicians. Two Apache helicopters from the state National Guard will accompany a procession Saturday from Charlotte to a funeral home in Kannapolis. Along the way, it will stop in Concord and Kannapolis for ceremonies.

On Sunday, veteran groups plan to honor Shue and his family again, lining the streets near the funeral home for a procession to the cemetery in Kannapolis, where a military marker with his name sits over an empty grave.

At least 1,000 members of Rolling Thunder and the Patriot Guard Riders, veterans’ motorcycle groups, are expected to participate.

Some veterans faced a much different reception upon returning from Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, amid massive peace protests against the unpopular war.

By late 1969, when Shue was reported missing, tens of thousands of U.S. troops had been killed. Full-scale U.S. involvement began when the first fighting units arrived in the country in 1965.

Jones recalled when her brother, the youngest of six children, enlisted. He dropped out of high school and wanted to join to fight in the war. Shue was under 18, so her father had to give his permission.

“He didn’t want him to go. But my daddy knew Donnie wanted to do something for his country,” Jones said.

She said her brother was a “bright boy. He was always smiling.”

Monty Clark said he met Shue in 1966, and the two were part of the “Bushmasters” — a group that raced motorcycles around town. Shue had even designed the group’s logo — a snake wrapped around the word “Bushmasters.” That’s when Shue decided he wanted to join the military, and the two were supposed to enlist together. But Clark wound up staying in school, while Shue left school and joined up.

The pals kept in touch constantly, until Clark got one final letter. Shue wrote that he had made the Green Berets and was headed overseas for a secret mission. Shue promised to tell him all about it when he came back to the U.S. But he never did.

“I always wondered what happened to Donnie,” Clark said. “We knew in our hearts that something terrible had happened.”

When Shue is laid to rest, the motorcycle group will get back together and wear T-shirts with the logo Shue designed in the 1960s, Clark said.

Shue was last seen alive in Laos in November 1969. He was with two other Special Forces soldiers and was wounded. At the time, Special Forces ran secret missions inside Laos and Cambodia, gathering intelligence on the North Vietnamese who were sneaking into South Vietnam through the Ho Chi Minh trail.

A few days after Shue went missing, two Green Berets visited her home. The family was devastated, but none more so than their father. He died two years later.

“I think he died of a broken heart,” Jones said. “He just loved that boy.”

In 1979, the Army classified Shue as killed in action.

“We held out hope that he was alive even though we knew. We just wanted him brought home,” she said.

In 1975, North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam and conquered the nation. When bitter relations between the United States and Vietnam began to thaw in the 1990s, teams of Army forensic experts headed into Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam looking for the remains of U.S. soldiers. There are more than 2,600 soldiers still missing from the war.

It was a Laotian farmer who found Shue’s remains — which the investigators confirmed after uncovering the Zippo lighter.

Jones and her two sisters had held out hope that he may have been in a secret prison camp, though she’s happy his long journey is over.

“He’s back home,” she said. “Back home where he belongs.”

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

April 29, 2011

Prince William and Kate Middleton declared married

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Prince William, and Kate Middleton stand before the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, during their wedding ceremony In Westminster Abbey, in central London April 29, 2011. REUTERS/Dominic Lipinski/Pool

LONDON | Fri Apr 29, 2011 7:00am EDT

(Reuters) – Prince William and his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton were declared married on Friday at a service in Westminster Abbey.

William, 28, and Middleton, 29, exchanged vows before nearly 2,000 guests in the abbey and a television and internet audience of millions.

They were formally declared married by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the Church of England.

Prince William, Kate Middleton man and wife: Tie the knot at Westminster Abbey. Video

(Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Paul Casciato)

Prince William marries Kate in glittering ceremony

By Mike Collett-White and Michael Holden

LONDON | Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:03am EDT

(Reuters) – Prince William and Kate Middleton married at Westminster Abbey on Friday in a sumptuous show of British pageantry that attracted a huge world audience and injected new life into the monarchy.

Before a flawless exchange of vows, a veiled Middleton wearing a laced dress with a long train, the first “commoner” to marry a prince in close proximity to the throne in more than 350 years, walked slowly through the 1,900-strong congregation.

As they met at the altar William, second in line to the throne, whispered to her, prompting a smile. The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams declared the couple married with the words: “I pronounce that they be man and wife together.”

Tens of thousands of people thronging the streets outside cheered when they heard the words, and again as the newlyweds left the abbey in a 1902 open-topped state landau carriage bound for Buckingham Palace, the queen’s London residence.

Huge cheering crowds strained to catch a glimpse of the beaming couple as well as the military bands in black bearskin hats and cavalrymen in shining breastplates who escorted them to the palace where they were expected to kiss on the balcony.

Middleton’s dress, the subject of fevered speculation for months in the fashion press, was a traditional ivory silk and satin outfit with a lace applique and train.

It was designed by Sarah Burton of the Alexander McQueen label, named after the British designer who committed suicide.

The bride wore a tiara loaned by the queen and the diamond and sapphire engagement ring that belonged to William’s mother Princess Diana, who was divorced from Prince Charles in 1996, a year before her death in a car crash in Paris aged just 36.

Middleton, the 29-year-old whose mother’s family had coal mining roots, is a breath of fresh air for the monarchy, which has in the past been accused of being disconnected from ordinary Britons. She is seen as having the common touch.

The royals’ cool reaction to Diana’s 1997 death contrasted with an outpouring of public grief and marked a low point for the family. Some questioned whether the institution, a vestige of imperial glory, had outlived its unifying role in a modern state divided by partisan politics and regional separatism.


Thousands of people from around the globe were outside the abbey, many of them camping overnight for the best view of the future king and queen and fuelling the feel-good factor that has briefly lifted Britain from its economic gloom.

“People watching this at home must think we’re completely mad, but there’s just no comparison,” said 58-year-old Denise Mill from southern England. “I just had to be here.”

The crowd entered into the festive spirit on a day when threatened rain failed to materialise by wearing national flags and even fake wedding dresses and tiaras.

Hundreds of police officers, some armed, dotted the royal routes in a major security operation. Plain clothes officers mixed with the crowds who were packed behind rails.

A large gathering is expected outside Buckingham Palace to cheer on the couple as they appear on the balcony for the much-anticipated public kiss.

For some, however, the biggest royal wedding since Diana married Charles in 1981 was an event to forget, reflecting divided opinion about the monarchy.

In the economically depressed northern city of Bradford, for example, businessman Waheed Yunus said: “It’s two young people getting married. It’s as simple as that. It happens throughout the whole world every single day.

“There are much more pressing issues. There are much more important things going on in the world.”


About 5,500 street parties will be held across Britain, in keeping with tradition, although they will be more common in the more affluent south of England than in the poorer north. Church bells rang out throughout the country in celebration.

The marriage between William and Middleton, dubbed “Waity Katie” for their long courtship, has cemented a recovery in the monarchy’s popularity.

A series of scandals involving senior royals, Britain’s economic problems and Diana’s death after her divorce from Prince Charles led many to question the future of the monarchy.

But Middleton’s background, William’s appeal, the ongoing adoration for his mother and a more media-savvy royal press team have helped to restore their standing with the wider public.

A Daily Mail survey showed 51 percent of people believed the wedding would strengthen the monarchy in Britain, compared with 65 percent who said the marriage between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005 would weaken it.

However, while the queen, 85, exercises limited power, and is largely a symbolic figurehead in Britain and its former colonies, critics question the privileges she and her family enjoy, particularly at a time when the economy is so weak.

The monarchy officially costs the British taxpayer around 40 million pounds ($67 million) a year, while anti-royalists put the figure at closer to 180 million pounds.


Bells pealed loudly and trumpets blared as 1,900 guests earlier poured into the historic abbey, coronation site for the monarchy since William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066.

Queen Elizabeth, other royals, Prime Minister David Cameron, David and Victoria Beckham, the footballer-pop star couple, and singer Elton John were among famous guests at the abbey.

They joined 50 heads of state as well as charity workers and war veterans who know the prince from his military training.

Middleton has been given the title Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge after the queen made her grandson William the Duke of Cambridge to mark the marriage.

William could face a long wait for the throne. His grandmother Queen Elizabeth shows little sign of slowing down at 85 and his father Charles is a fit and active 62-year-old.

(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle, Matt Falloon, Jodie Ginsberg, Keith Weir, Paul Casciato, Peter Griffiths, Tim Castle William Maclean and Marie-Louise Gumuchian, editing by Peter Millership)

April 29, 2011

Laos to vote for communist-dominated assembly

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Posted: 29 April 2011 1056 hrs

HANOI: Voters in Laos go to the polls on Saturday to choose a legislature that will be entirely controlled by the ruling communists, despite signs of growing clout in recent years.

There are 190 candidates vying for 132 seats in the National Assembly, up from 115 seats last time, said analysts familiar with the process in the impoverished country.

A foreign diplomat in Vientiane said the assembly has evolved from being “a pure rubber stamp” into an organ with its own identity that has criticised the government and even substantially revised some laws.

“I think the parliament is now a force here in politics,” he said.

But analysts say real power still rests with the ruling Politburo and Central Committee already chosen in March at a five-yearly Congress by fewer than 600 party members.

New legislators are all likely to be members of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, the diplomat said, requesting anonymity. Two “independents” in the last legislature eventually joined the party.

Martin Stuart-Fox, a Laos specialist at the University of Queensland in Australia, agreed the assembly has sometimes been more critical of the government, “but the problem is how far does it go?”

The assembly has discussed the country’s corruption problem but nobody of any significance in the country has ever been prosecuted, he said.

“I’m sure that nothing is discussed that the party doesn’t want discussed,” Stuart-Fox said.

The state-controlled Vientiane Times on Friday said the assembly “has brought positive changes to the performance of the government and judicial bodies.”

In June, the newly elected assembly will formally adopt the composition of a new government, decided behind closed doors during the party congress.

Choummaly Sayasone, who was re-elected to the country’s top post of party leader during the meeting, is also expected to be named to the joint position of president, the diplomat said.

Thongsing Thammavon is expected to stay on as prime minister. The former president of the assembly became the head of the government in December after the surprise resignation of his predecessor.

Both Vietnam and China vie for influence in landlocked Laos, which is home to about six million people.

More than three million are eligible to vote in the polls which will be broadcast live on television and radio, the Vientiane Times said.


April 29, 2011

Laos’ one-party election to include five independent candidates

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Apr 29, 2011, 9:48 GMT

Vientiane – Laos’ general election to be held this weekend will be a one-party affair, although five independent candidates have been permitted to run, officials said Friday.

The election, set for Saturday, is to be the country’s seventh since opting for a communist system in 1975.

Altogether 190 candidates are contesting 132 seats in the National Assembly, the country’s legislative body.

Among the candidates are 46 women, and five representatives of the private sector who are not members of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, the communist party which is the only political party in Laos.

‘It is up to independents if they want to contest,’ the Information Ministry’s Mounkeo Oraboun said. ‘It’s not up to us to ask independents to join the election,’ he told a press conference.

In the most recent elections in 2006, two independents won assembly seats but both ended up joining the communist party.

‘Laos is still a one-party state,’ said one western diplomat. ‘If you want to change things it’s easier to do so within the system.’

Observers say the National Assembly, which previously did little more than rubber-stamp the party’s decisions, has gained clout over the past five years, during which time it has passed 50 laws and strengthened its role as a supervisory body.

It played a role, for instance, in the forced resignation of former prime minister Bouasone Bouphavanh in December for ‘family problems.’

Bouasone reportedly had a mia noi, or formal mistress, a common enough practice in Laos but a no-no for politburo members and cabinet ministers.

‘The general election is important because the National Assembly has become more important,’ said a diplomat who asked to remain anonymous.

Some 3.3 million Lao are eligible to vote on Saturday, nearly half the population of 6 million.

The results should be published within a week.

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