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.
MICHAEL LINNINGTON’S DEPARTURE FROM DPAA
The combined 2016 Annual POW/MIA League Meeting and US Government Briefing, held in D.C., June 22 to 25, 2016, was an exceptional event. There was no apparent shock and awe during the meeting over former DPAA Director Michael Linnington’s departure, since the news of his decision to become CEO of Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) had been announced a week before the League meeting took place.
Many of my blog followers have expressed interest in feedback about Linnington’s departure, so this post will focus mainly on that issue.
Linnington told family members and guests when he stepped up to the podium at the onset of the event that his decision to leave DPAA and join WWP was not an easy one to make. He went on to explain that he had “been to war with these people” and it was apparent that Linnington’s 35-year Army career and ability to provide assistance to another troubled organization were key reasons for his departure.
Like many others who follow military-related issues, I was aware of the turmoil within WWP, so it did not surprise me that Linnington was approached and considered the right man for the job.
Linnington attended the three-day, annual League event from beginning to end, participating in many aspects of the meeting, along with CEO/League Chair Ann Mills-Griffiths. Ann is a tough gal, who undoubtedly was disappointed in Linnington’s decision, but leaders attending the event pledged their continued support for the mission — perhaps even more vehemently, considering the circumstances.
During Linnington’s year as Director of DPAA, he arrived during a make-it-or-break-it time for the accounting effort. Linnington came in ready to work, never flinched, nor did he ever blame his predecessors or anyone else for the problems he inherited – that made him a star in my books. A retired Army LTG with over three decades of service in what was a notable career by anyone’s standards, Linnington was understandably a quick learner. I observed him at a handful of meetings, and his knowledge of the system came quickly.
A man who knows from experience that there’s nothing like boots-on-the-ground, Linnington traveled around the world twice during the year, meeting with leaders of nations where our fallen service members from past wars are believed to exist; received approval to conduct exhumations of our unknowns in global locations; helped push through the go-ahead for strategic partnerships in the public/private arena to speed up recovery efforts; and carefully selected core personnel to join DPAA, because they had the necessary skills to help the agency achieve its mission — and that’s just for starters.
Linnington made no secret of his interest in selecting topnotch people throughout the organization, especially among his leadership team. It was clear that Interim Director Fern Sumpter Winbush; Deputy Director BG Mark Spindler, USA; and SGM Michael Swam, USA, Senior Enlisted Advisor, were hand-selected by Linnington, because he knew they could handle whatever came their way and help him rebuild the agency and ensure its continued success.
As Linnington noted during the meeting, DPAA was no longer the same organization as its predecessor, basically telling attendees that the problems of the past were in the past, even though there was still work to be done and changes would continue.
From my point-of view, Mills-Griffiths will continue to be a major figure in the accounting community. The above photo was more than a nice gesture — it also highlighted the critical role Ann plays in the process. I am convinced that Linnington understood the importance of her knowledge and influence among MIA families and leaders at home and abroad. She keeps everyone on their toes – just ask them!
WARRIOR LIVES MATTER!
Linnington will be missed, but I believe he made the right decision, based on my memories of how little was available to our Vietnam veterans and their families when the guys returned home. I personally witnessed a period in which many Americans were focused on Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and Gay Rights — there were no “Rights” for our returning warriors, who instead found that they weren’t welcome in their own country.
Those with mental and physical disabilities were not only shunned but many fell entirely through the cracks — never to find a way out. As a wife with a small child and a husband killed in Vietnam, I was entirely unprepared for the future without Jerry.
I found solace among other wives — on the other side of the United States — in the same position and eventually remarried another Marine combat pilot. Yet, I never forgot Jerry or the pain that so many of our guys experienced, despite their sacrifices. I do not want to see that happen again.
In closing, I understand the importance of WWPs need for an exceptional leader, and they don’t come much better than Linnington – warrior credentials and all. Congratulations to WWP – you’re in good hands.
NOTE: I am struggling with a torn tendon in my rotator cuff – unfortunately it’s my left shoulder and, of course, I’m left-handed. Please check back soon for my 2016 League Meeting wrap – lots of good info to pass along.