My first husband, Capt. Jerry Zimmer, was an F4B Phantom jet pilot, whose aircraft was shot down on August 29, 1969, approximately 20 miles South of Da Nang, Vietnam, after six months in country. Neither Jerry nor his navigator, 1st Lt. Al Graf, was able to eject, before the aircraft crashed into the Que Son Mountains. Initially Jerry and Al were classified as Killed in Action/No Body Recovered (KIA/NBR). Years later, both Marines were listed as MIA, along with other service members whose bodies were never recovered.
Jerry has been gone nearly a half century, and hope for recovering his remains had run out a long time ago. However, in recent years our family became involved with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), now merged with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), and learned that Jerry’s and Al’s remains might, in fact, be recoverable, so we are doing everything possible to support their efforts to make this happen and bring our guys home where they belong.
NOTE: BLOG POSTS ARE NOT UPDATED, SO INFORMATION MAY HAVE CHANGED OVER TIME.
Bringing Jerry Home...
This blog site represents the work of many people – family, friends, Marines, National League of POW/MIA Families, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) – now integrated into the newly formed Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) -- and others within the U.S. Government and elsewhere who believe that bringing home our MIAs is the fulfillment of a solemn promise that we make to our men and women in uniform.
We invite you to follow our collective journey in the quest to bring Jerry home.
The combined 2016 Annual POW/MIA League Meeting and US Government Briefing, held in D.C., June 22 to 25, 2016, was an exceptional event. There was no apparent shock and awe during the meeting over former DPAA Director Michael Linnington’s departure, since the news of his decision to become CEO of Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) had been announced a week before the League meeting took place.
Many of my blog followers have expressed interest in feedback about Linnington’s departure, so this post will focus mainly on that issue.
Linnington told family members and guests when he stepped up to the podium at the onset of the event that his decision to leave DPAA and join WWP was not an easy one to make. He went on to explain that he had “been to war with these people” and it was apparent that Linnington’s 35-year Army career and ability to provide assistance to another troubled organization were key reasons for his departure.
Like many others who follow military-related issues, I was aware of the turmoil within WWP, so it did not surprise me that Linnington was approached and considered the right man for the job.
Linnington attended the three-day, annual League event from beginning to end, participating in many aspects of the meeting, along with CEO/League Chair Ann Mills-Griffiths. Ann is a tough gal, who undoubtedly was disappointed in Linnington’s decision, but leaders attending the event pledged their continued support for the mission — perhaps even more vehemently, considering the circumstances.
During Linnington’s year as Director of DPAA, he arrived during a make-it-or-break-it time for the accounting effort. Linnington came in ready to work, never flinched, nor did he ever blame his predecessors or anyone else for the problems he inherited – that made him a star in my books. A retired Army LTG with over three decades of service in what was a notable career by anyone’s standards, Linnington was understandably a quick learner. I observed him at a handful of meetings, and his knowledge of the system came quickly.
A man who knows from experience that there’s nothing like boots-on-the-ground, Linnington traveled around the world twice during the year, meeting with leaders of nations where our fallen service members from past wars are believed to exist; received approval to conduct exhumations of our unknowns in global locations; helped push through the go-ahead for strategic partnerships in the public/private arena to speed up recovery efforts; and carefully selected core personnel to join DPAA, because they had the necessary skills to help the agency achieve its mission — and that’s just for starters.
Linnington made no secret of his interest in selecting topnotch people throughout the organization, especially among his leadership team. It was clear that Interim Director Fern Sumpter Winbush; Deputy Director BG Mark Spindler, USA; and SGM Michael Swam, USA, Senior Enlisted Advisor, were hand-selected by Linnington, because he knew they could handle whatever came their way and help him rebuild the agency and ensure its continued success.
As Linnington noted during the meeting, DPAA was no longer the same organization as its predecessor, basically telling attendees that the problems of the past were in the past, even though there was still work to be done and changes would continue.
From my point-of view, Mills-Griffiths will continue to be a major figure in the accounting community. The above photo was more than a nice gesture — it also highlighted the critical role Ann plays in the process. I am convinced that Linnington understood the importance of her knowledge and influence among MIA families and leaders at home and abroad. She keeps everyone on their toes – just ask them!
WARRIOR LIVES MATTER!
Linnington will be missed, but I believe he made the right decision, based on my memories of how little was available to our Vietnam veterans and their families when the guys returned home. I personally witnessed a period in which many Americans were focused on Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and Gay Rights — there were no “Rights” for our returning warriors, who instead found that they weren’t welcome in their own country.
Those with mental and physical disabilities were not only shunned but many fell entirely through the cracks — never to find a way out. As a wife with a small child and a husband killed in Vietnam, I was entirely unprepared for the future without Jerry.
I found solace among other wives — on the other side of the United States — in the same position and eventually remarried another Marine combat pilot. Yet, I never forgot Jerry or the pain that so many of our guys experienced, despite their sacrifices. I do not want to see that happen again.
In closing, I understand the importance of WWPs need for an exceptional leader, and they don’t come much better than Linnington – warrior credentials and all. Congratulations to WWP – you’re in good hands.
NOTE: I am struggling with a torn tendon in my rotator cuff – unfortunately it’s my left shoulder and, of course, I’m left-handed. Please check back soon for my 2016 League Meeting wrap – lots of good info to pass along.
The joint meeting of the 2016 National League of Families (aka, League) and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is an important annual event, held in D.C., and combined to allow Vietnam War MIA families an opportunity to be among others coping with the loss of a loved one in Southeast Asia, while still seeking answers that can only come through official US Government channels.
The three-day event, June 22 – 25, 2016,* is tightly scheduled with League Chair Ann Mills-Griffiths presiding for the 47th Annual League event! All presentations delivered by DPAA leadership and staff, League officials and special guests are timed for efficiency, and Mills-Griffiths keeps the program on a roll.
Every time I attend the annual meeting, I am amazed at the quality of the presentations and number of experts in attendance. I always leave with a feeling that I’ve learned something new or gained a better understanding of something I had never been able to truly grasp in the past.
NOTE: The initial schedule made available to MIA families may eventually include one or two changes related to a particular speaker and/or a presenter’s topic, but below is a partial list of the 2016 presentation agenda:
Mills-Griffiths, Assessing the Reorganization of Today;
DPAA Director Michael Linnington, Today’s Mission, Priority & Objectives;
DPAA Director Strategic Initiatives, Dr. Thomas Holland, Strategic Partnerships Update;
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, Post-Vietnam Trip (Tentative);
DPAA Director Asia Pacific Directorate Col Michael Gann, USMC, Asia & Pacific Regional Approach;
Commander Navy Expeditionary Command RADM Frank Morneau, USN, Maximizing Capabilities to Expand the Accounting Process;
Others on the list are people that most of us are familiar with, such as Richard Childress, Senior League Policy Advisor; General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF, (Ret.), US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs; Johnie Webb, DPAA Deputy Director Outreach & Communications; Bob Wallace, Executive Director & Assistant Adjutant General, VFW; and many more who bring so much value to this annual event.
Also, a special welcome to two members of Director Linnington’s leadership team attending and/or presenting for the first time at the annual event: BG Mark Spindler, USA, DPAA Deputy Director, who will discuss the agency’s Operational Perspective Worldwide; and Fern Sumpter Winbush, DPAA Principal Staff Director, who will focus on the agency’s role in facilitating Family and Veteran Engagement. I look forward to meeting them and hope they enjoy the event.
*If you are an MIA family member and have not registered but would like to attend the Government Briefing ONLY, please contact your casualty officer. Now that the deadline for registering has closed, I don’t know if there are exceptions; however, I do know that credentials are required of all attendees.
HOW DOES THE ANNUAL MEETING DIFFER FROM REGIONAL MEETINGS?
Anyone who has read my posts about the Regional DPAA meetings knows of my respect for these events held throughout the country. However, it is tough to compare the annual meeting to the regionals, because the annual event is dedicated to issues involving Vietnam War losses and recoveries, while the regionals cover all pertinent past wars.
Although some of the DoD experts at the Vietnam War annual meeting also participate in the one for the Korean War and Cold War, the majority of those attending our meeting have a long history as analysts, historians and investigators in Southeast Asia. This is very important, because Vietnam War families have been involved with efforts to find loved ones for years, and many are highly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of their loved one’s case and all the nuts and bolts in the recovery system, so it helps to have government attendees fluent, as well.
The expertise that DoD participants bring is especially apparent during the Department of Defense Q&A session, held on the last official day of the meeting. Families are given an opportunity to ask questions, and some are very penetrating, historically and otherwise. The DoD is adept at answering most questions, and they do a great job. Mills-Griffiths is on deck ensuring that questions are not personal, as in discussing a particular family member’s case, and that answers are technically correct – Ann is legendary for her unbelievable recall of events dating back decades.
I will cover the 2016 event in a future blog and showcase many of the people in attendance. Please stay connected.