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.
Archive for May, 2011
In celebration of the 150th anniversary of establishment of the Medal of Honor by an Act of Congress signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in December 1861, Congress last year passed an Act directing the U.S. Mint to strike two commemorative coins – a $1 silver coin and a $5 gold coin that will be available in 2011 only.
Many in law enforcement and military circles say that Memorial Day celebrations generally bring out the good in American culture. Most of us look forward to honoring our armed forces, especially in these turbulent times when our troops are serving in harm’s way. Families attend parades, fly their American flags and dress in everything patriotic. And many of us remember loved ones, like Jerry, who gave their lives for our country and never came home.
However, the holiday also offers a feeding frenzy for imposters who tout heroic acts never performed and wear medals never earned — and in some cases, profess to be members of the Armed Services, when in fact they never served at all.
People like Tom Cottone, a retired FBI Agent (2007), was involved in many big-time, organized crime cases during his career, but along the way he developed a specialty in exposing and disposing of fake medal holders. I had the privilege of meeting Tom at Jerry’s 40th Memorial Service in August 2009, when he arrived at Arlington National Cemetery to pay his respects with my friend, retired Marine Capt. Ben Cascio (the One-Eyed Ugly Angel).
Cottone (pronounced Katone) perhaps is best known for his pursuit of Medal of Honor phonies. This coveted medal has been bestowed upon fewer than 3,500 individuals by the President of the United States, on behalf of Congress, since the decoration’s creation in 1861. According to the Army’s historical statistics, fewer than 300 have been awarded in the past 50 years. During the Vietnam War, 246 Medals of Honor were awarded, 154 of them posthumously; four during Iraq and four, thus far, in Afghanistan. Over the years, Tom worked closely with the Medal of Honor Society, even busting several impostors at recipient reunions. Read more
Following up on evidence presented by our family in which we asked that Jerry’s and Al’s case be reopened, JPAC conducted a full-scale investigation in August 2009. They sent a team of investigators/linguists to interview Mr. Du and Mr. Bay, the primary in-country sources, to determine if the area involved a crash site and whether it was viable for excavation, both of which were affirmative. Furthermore, investigators concurred with our findings that Jerry and Al had crashed at that location.
Budget battles are far from over, considering where things currently stand with FY2011; however, looking ahead to the FY2012 budget, JPAC seems to have dodged a bullet and will remain in control of recovery operations of all MIAs from past wars, dating back to WWII. Of concern to families—including ours — and many powerful veterans organizations was that the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) would exceed its current policy-making role by adding an operational capability to its war chest. Had revamping DPMOs organization been approved, the consensus was that Vietnam War recoveries would have suffered a crushing blow, adding more concern to families with MIAs from the Vietnam War who feel that recoveries already are hanging in the balance. (Please read my previous blog on unilateral recoveries).
Thanks to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who will be retiring soon, DPMOs plan was not adopted. Instead, the Defense Department’s proposed budget for FY2012 for the next five years included a $321.1 million increase in funding and a plus-up of 253 additional personnel for JPAC, according to Ann Mills Griffiths, Executive Director of The National League of Families. Mills-Griffiths also confirmed that JPAC is expected to remain under the U. S. Pacific Command (USPACOM). Read more