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.
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Archive for October, 2010
Looking for a loved one in Vietnam is not easy on the psyche, but the upside is that I have learned a lot from people who have found ways to overcome the cruelty of war. Since Jerry was a Marine, it has been a special honor to communicate with several in this tight-knit community, where the network is so powerful that it extends to peacetime Vietnam.
Case in hand, Lt Col Jack Wells, a retired career Marine, was in Vietnam this past September with a group, when he bumped into the JPAC excavation team at a Thai restaurant in Da Nang. The team, composed of guys from the joint services and civilian community, had just completed Jerry’s and Al’s first excavation. As you would have expected, there were a couple of Marines in the JPAC mix—Team Leader Capt Joe Hamer and Staff Sgt Matt Olsen. The Marine brotherhood was strong! Joe spoke of my recent visit to the team’s base camp, and the discussion prompted Jack to send me an email when he returned to the states. Read more
When the Basic School Class of 6-67 decided to create a living memorial, dedicated to fallen classmates who had lost their lives in Vietnam, they built a primary school, knowing that it would perpetuate their dream and give some needy children a chance to rise above their meager economic conditions. The venture came with a hefty price tag, but the group was undaunted by the task; over time, they raised $40,000 to build this special school, located in a tiny, rural village in the Central Highlands.
With assistance from the East Meets West Foundation in Vietnam, the school emerged in 2006, and its library two years later. Lt Col Jack Wells, a key member of the Mac Dinh Chi school project, continues to support ongoing efforts to help the school children, and it’s paying off. The school now is involved with a dental program that is extraordinarily important to children whose parents earn an average of $25 per month, according to some statistics—barely enough to survive and certainly not enough for dental care.
The Basic School class helps raise funds to sponsor the program that pays for such things as dental equipment, medicines, etc. The dentists who take part in the program do so as volunteers, and one such group calls itself Team Alaska, headed by Dr. Bob Allen. Team Alaska and members of the Basic School Class—including Jack—will be back in Vietnam in March 2011 to provide follow-up care for the children of Mac Dinh Chi School. Read more