Our Mission:Jerry was an F4 Phantom 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 because of the altitude and trajectory of the aircraft. They were initially 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 – regardless of their original classification.
Although Jerry has been gone for four decades, our family learned that his remains might be recoverable, so we are doing everything possible to work with JPAC to make this happen and bring Jerry home to the United States where he belongs.
Bringing Jerry Home...
This blog represents the work of many people – family, friends, Marines, JPAC team members 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. Although it has been four decades since my first husband, Capt Jerry A. Zimmer, USMC, lost his life in Vietnam, we are hopeful that his remains will soon be repatriated. We invite you to follow our collective journey in the quest to bring Jerry home.
Vietnam War MIA Family
Our family traditionally closes the East Coast-West Coast gap during the holidays and gets together at our home in southern California. We always try to take an annual photo, and this year was no exception. It’s a comical crapshoot at best, but we want new and old friends to know us in a very personal way. Namely, that we are one of the many MIA families dedicated to bringing home the remains of a loved one from Vietnam — in our case, my first husband and Craig’s father, Capt Jerry Zimmer, USMC. Thank you for following our journey.
MY RETURN TO VIETNAM
In August/September 2013, I returned to Vietnam and met the wonderful JPAC team that conducted another excavation phase at Jerry’s and Al’s crash site. The team found more evidence but no remains. I also attended my first repatriation ceremony, held on the tarmac of Da Nang International Airport – formerly known as Da Nang Airbase, where many of our Marines, including Jerry, and Air Force pilots, were stationed during the war. Looking ahead, we are still hopeful, dedicated and will continue to keep everyone in the loop through updates posted on the blog.
Military Historical Tours & Group in Da Nang
While in Da Nang, I also had an opportunity to link up with Military Historical Tours – timing is everything and certainly describes my chance to finally meet and have dinner with Ed Garr and John Powell, who are considered among the best guides in the business and a lot more. Both served in Vietnam – Ed with the Marine Corps, and John the Army. Stay tuned for my upcoming military travel blog with Ed and John serving as my “guides.” The military travel market is burgeoning, and MHT is tops in the business.
FAREWELL TO DOUG REESE – A VIETNAM FRIEND
I was deeply saddened by the death of my good friend, Doug Reese, 66, who passed away of cancer, three days before Christmas. Doug left behind his beautiful Vietnamese wife, Nhung, along with their three-year-old daughter, Samantha, both of whom gave him unbelievable joy, especially in his final days.
Doug was like most of us – nondescript in looks, but unlike most, a guy you never forgot after meeting him. In the five years that I knew Doug, he never once said a nasty word about anyone. Nor did he ever betray a friendship, and he had a zillion friends, dating back to elementary school. I know that for a fact, since Chuck Reeves was one of those guys from the “old” neighborhood.
Through Chuck, a Marine Corps pilot and Vietnam veteran and now head of Qualcomm’s corporate flight program in San Diego, I recently learned of Doug’s Silver Star – a huge honor that Doug received during the Vietnam War as a young Army Lieutenant. The Silver Star is our nation’s third highest military decoration for valor, and Doug’s bravery saved many of his fellow soldiers, according to the official citation describing his actions. We had countless personal conversations, but he never mentioned his Silver Star, but that was Doug.
When you read about Jerry’s case, please know that Doug was there for us, just as he was for many returning POWs and Vietnam War families, who needed a guiding hand in a country where memories can play tricks, even on the best of us. For more information, visit http://www.shirleybrothersfriends.com/team/459.
THANKSGIVING IN INDIA — HUMANITARIAN SUCCESS STORY
After several years of hoping to visit India, the opportunity came during the Thanksgiving holiday. No turkey this year, but visiting Jeevarathni Orphanage gave new meaning to the word “thankful.”
My connection to Jeevarathni was through my husband Ron’s friendship with Manoj Cherian, a retired Indian Army officer, who now works for Qualcomm India. A few years ago Manoj was visiting San Diego and told me that his family had recently opened an orphanage for 33 children in an area outside of Bangalore.
The inspiration behind the orphanage was his brother-in-law, Captain K.J. Samual (Joey), also a retired military officer, who flew helicopters in the Indian Army. Joey and a partner started Deccan Air, which was later sold to Kingfisher Air. Joey’s good fortune provided seed money for the orphanage named after his mother, Jeevarathni. The orphanage is now growing in size, as is support from private donors and corporations.
The kids are now learning to use computers, which were recently donated to the orphanage by IBM. They attend school locally, have access to medical care and are thrilled when visitors arrive, especially those who come bearing edible gifts. Needless to say, Ron and I were a hit with a couple of chocolate birthday cakes in hand – we were treated like family with the kids calling us Uncle and Auntie.
I cried when we were preparing to leave. One of the children said to me, “Auntie’s crying!” I kissed her and told her they were tears of joy, and I meant every word. Jeevarathni has given these children hope in a country where positive sentiments don’t always reap positive results. Check out www.jeevarathni.org/
I wasn’t looking forward to hanging David’s Christmas stocking this year. I’ve found that most of the things in life I didn’t want to do – because they remind me of people or things that aren’t here anymore – are things I really need to do.
So I lifted his stocking carefully out of its box like Mom used to do. Seeing a tiny hole in the heel, I turned it inside out to sew it. A few old, brittle scraps of wrapping paper fell out. What gift, I wondered, what year? What little thing had our parents placed there in the stocking to be found on Christmas morning – was it for David or for me?
An aunt knit woolen Christmas stockings for all three of the Kink children years before I was born. The names Paul, David, and Susan were knitted in bright red above a fuzzy white Santa face, and a pair of crossed candy canes. They were magnificent, large enough to hold an apple, an orange, a box of chocolate-covered cherries, a can of smoked oysters, and a Life Saver Sweet Storybook. I was born last, nine years after my sister, so I never got my own knitted stocking, but I loved the look and feel of the others. They were a special part of our Christmas.
The year that David was killed in Vietnam, Mom started filling his stocking for me. It made me feel special, sharing my big brother’s stocking like that. Even though I got everything that was inside. It was still David’s stocking, and it still needed to be hung up at Christmas.
Looking back, I think it was one of the important lessons of my eighth year: you don’t have to quit hanging a person’s Christmas stocking, just because they’re not there to see it. For so many years, I watched Mom brush away tears as she would lift it so carefully out of its box, and pack it away just as carefully after Christmas. We eventually sent Paul’s stocking off to him in Montana, and Susan’s stocking off to her in South Carolina. Mom went into the nursing home, but David’s stocking stayed right here with me. It has never missed a Christmas.
And now, Mom is gone. And now, I am lifting David’s stocking out of its box and wiping away a few tears, just like Mom used to do.
This year, I shed tears for people I don’t even know, the more than 2,000 families who will wonder if they should hang a Christmas stocking this year. The families of the young men and women who, like my own brother in 1969, went off to fight a war and never came back.
The families wondering if you ever stop thinking about them.
I wish to the core of my soul that there was something I could do or say that would let them know they aren’t alone. What I really wish, is that the war would end, and there wouldn’t have to be any more families like mine, left wondering.
What do you do with a person’s Christmas stocking after they’re gone?
You carefully take it out of its box, you hang it up, you fill it with treats or gifts. Or just memories . . . and then, you go on.
A sensitive, beautifully-written Christmas story by Julie Kink, published eight years ago in memory of the brother she barely new — David — who was killed in Vietnam when an UXO detonated and took down his LOH after he’d been in country one month. Like so many who lost loved ones long ago in Vietnam, Julie’s story will resonate in its simplicity but very special message. My thanks to Julie for allowing me to publish her story, as we celebrate another Christmas day without David, Jerry and so many others who died while serving our country.