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 August, 2012
August 29th — A Special Day
Forty-three years ago today — August 29th — my first husband, Capt Jerry Zimmer, USMC, was killed in Vietnam and eventually classified as MIA. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), headquartered at Hickam AFB in Honolulu, continues to search for his remains, along with those of his Radar Intercept Officer, 1st Lt. Al Graf. We don’t know if Jerry’s and Al’s remains will be found, but it won’t be for lack of trying on JPACs part. Jerry was everything to many of us, so we continue to hope, as does Al’s family.
JPAC Is Growing
For those of you who are just learning about JPAC, this organization is commanded by a group of active duty military, along with two retired military officers and a noted scientist in the civil service. The military and civil service leadership gives the organization great continuity, and it works well. JPAC and its predecessors have been conducting this enormous humanitarian mission for three decades. The model extends to JPACs detachments in Southeast Asia and is expected to do likewise in other areas, where JPAC has ramped up recovery efforts. Currently JPAC is comprised of approximately 400 people, and that number is expected to grow. Above all, this is the group that hikes in 100-degree heat through the jungles of Vietnam and other less-than-ideal places around the world, searching for our MIAs — I have a huge amount of respect for the work they do! Read more
NO LONGER ENEMIES
It has taken me a while to realize that my visits to Vietnam have been a positive factor in the constant challenge of reliving Jerry’s death while working on his case. Certainly the in-country JPAC leadership and field teams, working hard to find our loved ones, have provided a comfort zone and connection to people of like mind and culture in this faraway country. However, my transformation seems to have come gradually from people of so-called unlike mind and of a very different culture.
Whenever I return to Vietnam, as I did in May 2012, one of the most important stops on my itinerary is at the village of Son Vien, located in the valley below Jerry’s and Al’s crash site. Depending upon road conditions, the drive from Hoi An usually takes an hour or more, riding along bumpy roads into the back country of the Central Highlands. My guide and translator, Hoa (pronounced, whar), always contacts Du – a village elder –in advance to let him know that the American woman is coming to visit his family. Du is the former Viet Cong soldier, who led us to Jerry’s crash site three years ago, and I always look forward to this part of my time in country. Inevitably, when our driver begins the final lap of our journey, Du appears from out of nowhere on his motorbike, motioning us to follow him home. Read more