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 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.
Two hundred MIA families attended the DPAA regional meeting in Boston. When invited to talk a little about their loved ones, it was apparent that some found the experience cathartic, while others found it difficult. As always, it was a very moving part of the program.
New Englanders often take a while to warm up to newcomers, or so they say, but as one who was raised in that part of the country, you could have fooled me! It was apparent that families attending the May 14, 2016, Regional Meeting of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) in Boston, MA, warmed up immediately to DPAA Director Michael Linnington. A number of them stood up during the meeting and expressed their thanks for DPAAs efforts to account-for their loved ones, still classified as MIAs from WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War or Cold War conflicts. “It means a lot to my family,” said a family member whose loved one is still unaccounted-for from the Korean War.
As is customary, Linnington and his team of DPAA experts covered nearly every aspect of the accounting program, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., consisting of presentations and Q&As by Jack Kull, Policy Advisor; Dr. Rebecca Taylor, Forensic Anthropologist; Lt Col Alice Briones, USAF, Director DoD DNA Registry; along with three analysts, each of whom specialize in a wartime location for DPAA: Daniel Baughman, Chief of Korean War Research & Analysis; Major Shannon Lee Coleman, USAF, Research & Analyst, European and Mediterranean area of WWII; and LCDR Michael Rancour, USN, Southeast Asia Analyst, Vietnam War.
(L-R) Major Shannon Lee Coleman; Jack Kull; LCDR Mike Rancour; Dr. Rebecca Taylor; Daniel Baughman; Lt Col Alice Briones
Also present were numerous other specialists, critical to the accounting program, such as the Casualty Officers from each of the Armed Forces, along with others involved in internal/external communications. Todd S. Livick, Director, Outreach and Communications, is a new addition to the DPAA leadership team. Although Livick is a newcomer to the accounting program, he is definitely not new to his field of expertise. Livick is an Army veteran with extensive background in all aspects of government relations, including serving as a former Deputy Special Asst. for Public Affairs in support of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
MY REALITY CHECK
Barbara Grybz was presented with a collection of medals, earned by her brother, who is classified as MIA in Vietnam. This special presentation was made by (L-R) DPAA Director Michael Linnington, accompanied by Capt. Jim Prial; USMC; Major Craig Chereck, USAF; Mike Fowler, DPAA Outreach & Communications Directorate.
Every time I attend an MIA family meeting, as in Boston, I am amazed at the level of interest, love and hope on the part of families who lost loved ones dating back to WWII and Korea. Yes, as expected, many of the 200 attendees were extended family members, but not all, who had inherited a loved one’s case from another family member. Yet, neither time nor relationship to the MIA had diminished their dedication to the mission. I listened to their stories, saw their tears and was once again reminded that pain is not exclusive to my wartime generation.
(L-) Todd S. Livick, Director, Outreach & Communications, DPAA; Major Craig Chereck, DPAA; Johnie Webb, Deputy Director, Outreach & Communications.
However, the founding of the current recovery efforts is considered exclusive to the Vietnam War generation, thanks to the dedication and sheer determination by some very special families, veterans and politicians – early-on – that were instrumental in creating the global, ongoing recovery programs that we now take for granted, covering the Vietnam War, WWII, Korean War and other conflicts. Were it not for people like Sybil Stockdale, Anne Mills Griffiths and other determined diehards, this great humanitarian effort would probably have ended decades ago. We owe them a debt of gratitude.
Strategic Partnership Programs: Linnington was clearly enthused about discussing the level of interest among academic institutions, tech companies, and the list went on of organizations that have already formed partnerships with DPAA which are being implemented in 2016 to augment and assist all areas of the accounting mission. Although partnerships are not entirely new to DPAA, the concept is now officially sanctioned to help speed up the recovery process, particularly in WWII locations. For professional organizations wanting to get involved, I suggest that you do your homework before contacting DPAA – the agency has a terrific website — www.dpaa.mil/. NOTE: Linnington stressed that laboratory services involving identifications of our MIAs, are not open to partners. DPAA has a state-of-the-art laboratory and world-class forensic and DNA technologists.
Director of the partnership program is Dr. Tom Holland – I am looking forward to learning more from Holland about Partnership Programs during the upcoming 2016 Family League/DPAA Annual Meeting in D.C., June 22 – 25, 2016. (more info in next blog).
Accounting Mission 101: Jack Kull is an entertaining speaker, knows his stuff and shared it with the families: (my comments in blue)
- Each conflict is pursued differently (much depends on location, culture, type of incident…)
- DNA is taking on an increasing role (Lt. Col Briones discussed Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), eventually offering hope when nothing else works for IDs)
- Casualty officers are important to know (Each of the Armed Forces has its own MIA Casualty Office. If you have questions, contact the branch in which your loved one served and ask to be connected to the Casualty Office that handles MIA cases)
- The Dept. of State is important — we could not do this without our ambassadors
- Intelligence is important, and the government gives us full access
- Deep water recoveries are almost nil (I believe DPAA water recoveries do not exceed 150′ )
- Strategy determines how cases are worked
- Witnesses are passing away (Were it not for in-country witnesses, I doubt that our family would have located Jerry’s crash site)
- Loss of records makes WWII recoveries challenging (It is a blessing every time a WWII recovery and ID is made and the same goes for the Vietnam War)
- Re-building WWII case files offers an opportunity to simultaneously digitize them
- Strategic partnerships are a true force multiplier. (The accounting program is huge, especially in the area of field operations. Partners can make a huge difference).
- Some partnerships can do recoveries and allow DPAA to move to others
- Host nations typically have the training and assets required for DPAA missions
From the Field: Dr. Rebecca Taylor discussed the recovery process, of which she is very familiar, having already led 11 global recoveries. I first met Taylor in Vietnam during one of my visits and was told that she is topnotch. Her short, amateur video of a WWII excavation in India kept us all riveted and was proof positive of her dedication to the mission and that of DPAA team members. Check it out — I think you’ll agree.