Green Beret is finally home

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 2, 2011

By Joanie Morris
For the Salisbury Post
Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.
— John 15:13
KANNAPOLIS — Chaplain J.R. Lorenzen of the U.S. Army stationed in Fort Bragg closed his eyes in a short prayer as motorcycles made the turn into Carolina Memorial Park. His lips moved silently, reverence lit his face.
The crowd stood, silently, some saluting, others with hands placed over their hearts. All hats were removed out of respect for the soldier being laid to rest.
After more than 40 years, Sgt. 1st Class Donald “Donnie” Monroe Shue was home.
Shue, an Army Green Beret, was serving with two others when they went missing on a mission Nov. 3, 1969. Shue, Staff Sgt. William Brown and Staff Sgt. Gunther Wald were last seen wounded 30 miles inside Laos, near Ban Chakevy Tai in Saravane Province. According to military documents, Shue and the other two men — as well as several men who escaped — were attached to a unit performing highly classified maneuvers throughout Southeast Asia.
The men were later identified as being members of the MACV-SOG — Military Assistance Command-Vietnam, Studies and Observation Group.
It was only 40 steps, escorted with Green Beret pallbearers stationed out of Fort Bragg, that separated Shue from his final resting place in his home soil. As the Green Berets respectfully carried Shue to his grave at Carolina Memorial Park, bagpipes played.
Faces, both familiar and strange to the family, peppered the cemetery, looking on quietly as Shue’s remains were carried to his final resting place.
It’s a scene which, no matter how many you attend, you don’t get used to, according to Lynda Schenck of Mooreville. As a former World Health Organization worker stationed in Africa, she’s worked closely with military personnel.
“It’s emotional,” she said, standing beside the road leading to Shue’s gravesite. “I have to come out and tell all my military friends goodbye.”
Chaplain Lorenzen’s voice reverberated through the crowd, loud and clear in his sentiments.
He spoke of the monument erected in Washington, D.C., Nov. 11, 1921, later known as the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Addressing the flag-draped casket containing Shue’s remains, Lorenzen said, “For now, rest well in your native soil.”
While the crowd was silent, only one sound was heard.
“Glory is God,” wept his sister, Peggy Hinson.
Then, the cacophony of black boots polished to a spit-shine, as those Green Berets returned to the casket. The six somber soldiers picked up the flag with white-gloved hands, and held it high as Shue was saluted.
Sgt. 1st Class Perry Scott’s voice resounded Sunday as he commanded the 21-gun salute to Shue. Following that, the haunting echo of “Taps” was highlighted by the yawning silence of the crowd and flags snapping in the breeze.
A lone bagpipe wailed “Amazing Grace” as the flag was lowered and folded with perfect corners and passed to the instructor. The instructor then passed it to Lt. Gen. John Mulholland.
Mulholland walked to Betty Jones, saluted the woman and presented her the flag.
“This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service,” he whispered to Jones.
The presentation repeated for a second flag presented to Peggy Hinson.
“This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service,” Mulholland whispered to Hinson.
Rolling Thunder presented the family with folded black POW/MIA flags.
Mulholland presented the sisters with oak presentation boxes, gifts from the Secretary of the Army for their flags.
Again, Lorenzen spoke to the sisters quietly, praying with both and receiving a hug from Peggy.
Later, Lorenzen admitted that while he’s prayed at numerous military services, this was the first missing-in-action soldier he’s laid to rest.
“There are three things chaplains do,” he said. “We honor the dead, comfort the wounded and nurture the living.”
After having their wounds opened and reopened, Lorenzen said the Shue family is finally getting some closure and his hope is that their wounds will finally begin to heal.
“It’s humbling,” he said about officiating military funerals. “Here you are, being welcomed into a family’s grief and relief. You’re honoring a soldier who gave his last full measure 40 years ago.
“This was an opportunity to bring healing to a generation past,” said Lorenzen.
Asked what he said to the sisters as he knelt before them at the end of the service, his response was humbling.
“I simply asked if the Lord would heal the wounds,” he said. “That he would be their strength, their stronghold and he would grant them peace.”
His unit, the 7th Special Forces group from Fort Bragg, had 12 days to prepare for the services they would offer in Kannapolis. Not only did they welcome the body to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport on Friday night, the Green Berets have stood guard over Shue since.
Sgt. 1st Class Scott, of Houston, Texas and currently stationed in Fort Bragg, had called the command for the 21-gun salute.
“This is probably the greatest honor you can do for someone,” said Scott. “A man laid down his life for a friend. He did that for us. He deserves this.”
One man, Master Sgt. John Owens of Pensacola, Fla., knew Shue personally.
“We went through Special Forces training together,” said Owens at Shue’s service.
The two graduated in December 1968 and Shue was stationed in Okinawa. Owens later volunteered for a special operations unit that arrived in Vietnam in September 1969.
He never forgot the smiling, humorous young man who could light up a room.
“Being with him was a great thing,” said Owens. “My come-on line was, ‘I’m with Donnie.’ It worked.”
“When I saw him again, I was elated to see him,” said Owens.
Shue had made his way to Vietnam a month or so after Owens. “When he went on his mission, I was probably the last guy who saw him before he went into isolation.”
Isolation is where the men who were going on missions went before going on the missions.
“I said, ‘Good luck Donnie,’ ” said Owens. “He said something like, ‘No problem.’ That was the last I saw him.”
When he heard that Shue and his guys had gone missing, “I had to swallow my heart and get on with fighting the war.”
In 1971, he was reading a Charlotte Observer article about missing in action soldiers.
As he was reading, he realized he was reading about Shue, an interview with his mother, Nellie.
“I about died,” said Owens. “I couldn’t tell her anything about what happened.”
Now though, Owens said there’s finally closure.
The MIA bracelet with Shue’s name and date missing that he has been wearing all these years is now attached to the coffin carrying Shue’s remains. The bracelets, a symbol to be worn until a soldier is returned home, can be retired.
Shue is back where he belongs. Home.