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 September, 2014
For the past several years, DPMO has produced a special poster for National POW/MIA Recognition Day. These posters are poignant reminders of our continued respect for those service members who paid the ultimate price on behalf of our country and that the mission to bring home their remains will never end. The 2014 poster is one of my favorites.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed annually on the third Friday of September in honor of the brave men and women of the armed services, who are still missing from past wars — namely, WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War and the Cold War. Each are officially listed as POW/MIA, and this special day is one in which the US Government renews its commitment to do everything possible to bring them home to their families and to the country for which they made the ultimate sacrifice. The 2014 event falls on the 19th this year and is traditionally observed at government installations, including the Capitol and White House, along with multiple locations where active duty military, veterans, families and other patriotic Americans gather to remember these special heroes.
Although formal observances may differ, many will include the very recognizable POW/MIA flag flying below the American flag. This black flag made its debut after the Vietnam War, and its presence continues to move Americans, who now know what it signifies and that it has come to represent all POW/MIA service members from past wars. In more recent years the Department of Defense began producing a unique poster, specifically for POW/MIA Recognition day. They are true works of art that always send a powerful message, and the 2014 poster is no exception, as noted above. The inscription on the poster says it best: “Missing … Seeking Answers.”
Many families with loved ones still missing would give anything to turn back the clock and be given just one do-over. But we all know that do-overs are trendy ways of saying second chances, and our plight is not a game but rather a dream that the remains of our husbands, fathers, sons and brothers will be found one day, and allow us to close the circle.
As the Department of Defense prepares to debut a new agency that will try to speed up global recovery efforts of our MIAs, I wish them success and hope all MIA families and veterans will help make it work. There will be opportunities for many of us to become partners in this very complex effort. With the threat of terrorism looming large and the drawdown of military troops leaving us with fewer service members than post-WWII, please make National POW/MIA Recognition Day more than an annual observance — let’s pledge to help the DoD get the job done.