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 the ‘Vietnam MIA’ Category
DPAA REGIONAL MIA FAMILY MEETING
What has become apparent to me after years of hoping to bring home Jerry’s remains from Vietnam is the importance of learning as much as possible about the system that turns hope into reality whenever possible.
In my opinion, learning from experts like those associated with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) www.dpaa.mil, gives families, such as mine, an insider’s look at what goes on behind the scenes — both in D.C. and in Vietnam War locations, along with the Korean War and WW II.
For that reason, I try to stay connected with DPAA by attending regional family meetings and will travel to the one in Phoenix, AZ, on 28 January. Hope is wonderful, but it’s not enough when it comes to keeping a loved one’s case active or understanding the challenges involved in the process — budgets; technology; personnel; field operations; DNA; and the list goes on.
Someone gave me great advice when I became involved in Jerry’s case years ago: “Don’t assume anything.” The effort to bring home our MIAs is not on autopilot. We need to do our part. If you are able to attend the Phoenix meeting, contact your casualty officer — all numbers are listed on the DPAA website, and ask if you can still sign up. This meeting is open to MIA families from the Vietnam War, Korean War and WWII.
I will cover the Phoenix meeting and bring you up-to-date on the latest in the near future. Please stay connected.
Another important way to up your learning curve is to visit the National League of POW/MIA Families at www.pow-miafamilies.org. Dedicated to families with missing loved ones from the Vietnam War, Board Chair Ann Mills Griffiths has been in a leadership role for more than three decades and continues to oversee this very important organization. The League co-hosts a major annual meeting with DPAA in Washington, D.C., and each year MIA family members throughout the country attend, as I expect they will do so again in June, 2017. The League’s site is a great place to learn everything you want to know about the annual meeting and a lot more.
WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO
If you have ever wondered why MIA families continue to search, wait and hope for the return of remains or information of a husband, son, brother or other loved one, still missing from the Vietnam War — my generation’s war, I would offer this advice:
Make it personal and think of what it might feel like today if you lost someone you loved, after he/she went to war and never came home for burial or, in some cases, were classified as “Last Known Alive.” Leaving families with the horror of not knowing if a loved one was dead or alive is a terrible fate — did he die in a make-shift prison camp; buried somewhere in Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia; or sent to a prison in Russia, China or Hanoi. Or, for that matter, are his remains still imprisoned in the cockpit of his aircraft, after being shot down in waters off the coast of Vietnam? Whatever the circumstances, the MIA tag, pertaining to our loved ones, is a life sentence for some families.
This is the only way I can possibly describe the profound sadness that stays with many of us, who rely upon DPAA and others involved in the effort to find our loved ones’ remains or even to provide answers.
I believe that Vietnam War families are among the most committed and protective of their missing loved ones. Some of that can be traced back to the pain we experienced when the American public did not support the war, nor demonstrate compassion for our heroes who never came home — or for those that did!
Maybe this will give you some idea of why we do what we do. We don’t wish this upon anyone.
REFLECTING ON THE HOLIDAYS
Holidays are special for most American families, including MIA families, but very difficult for those of us with loved ones still unaccounted for from past wars. Several years ago, I asked my immediate family if they would allow me to post our annual Christmas picture on Jerry’s site, as a statement of solidarity for efforts to bring home his remains and those of other service members missing from the Vietnam War.
Despite not knowing what image would appear in print, from one year to another, my family has felt from the beginning that a picture is worth a thousand words, regardless of its quality — rather, it is the message that counts. Our story is that Jerry is loved and missed by his family, and we hope that his remains and those of other MIAs still unaccounted-for in Southeast Asia will be found and identified in 2017. Please say a pray — we need all the help we can get.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
I have been married to my second husband, Ron, for many years. Having served in the Vietnam War as a combat pilot flying Huey Gunships, I was confident that Ron would understand the importance of never forgetting Jerry, the father of my son, Craig, who was lovingly raised by Ron, along with our own son, Brett. Bringing home Jerry’s remains eventually became a possibility and then a passionate quest.
In 2004, Ron and I were living in Hong Kong and traveled to Vietnam — my first visit in country and Ron’s first since the war. Although it was a business trip this time for Ron, we both went with the hope of visiting Jerry’s crash site.
Even though that visit 13 years ago was largely unsuccessful in terms of our immediate goal, it was the beginning of our quest to visit Jerry’s site and hopefully bring home his remains. Without Ron’s help, I probably would not have lasted more than six months, considering the psychological, physical and financial stress of our quest. He has guided me through a world that I thought I knew but was way out of my league.
YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT IS IMPORTANT
The support of family, friends, veterans and our active duty military is appreciated. In many ways, all of you keep the system running at what we hope is “full” speed.
Our loved ones gave their lives for this great country. In return, we are asking that President Donald Trump, U. S. Congress and Secretary of Defense General James Mattis provide DPAA with a permanent Director; budget approval/resources to escalate recovery efforts in Southeast Asia; and exclusion from a hiring freeze because of the agency’s military mission and structure.
DPAAs efforts to repatriate the remains of our MIAs to the United States are close to the finish line in Southeast Asia. Over the years, DPAA and its predecessors have worked hard to develop a strong relationship with the Vietnamese government — together we are making a difference in finding remains and becoming allies. We need to keep up the momentum.
MARINES OF BASIC SCHOOL 1-67, B COMPANY
50th Anniversary Reunion
THE RIGHT STUFF
To those who think patriotism is dead in America, my advice is to hang out with a group of Vietnam War veterans. Not long ago, I had the opportunity of practicing what I preach. It was refreshing to be among a special gathering of Marine officers, who some would say have every right to question love of country, having served in a very unpopular war. Instead, reflecting on their Marine Corps commitment that officially began in Basic School, five decades earlier, most attribute their TBS experience as giving them an appreciation of service to country, pride of being a Marine and gratitude for the opportunities they received in return.
In September, 2016, I received a call from an old friend, Mike Wholley, BGen, USMC (Ret), inviting me to attend the 50th Anniversary Reunion of The Basic School, Class of 1-67, Company B, of which Mike and my first husband, Capt Jerry Zimmer, were members and served in the same platoon – Bravo Company, 4th Platoon, to be exact. Of course, I’d like to brag that the 4th was the best, but to be honest, platoon selection was/is based strictly on the alphabet – hence Wholley and Zimmer along with approximately 25 others were last, but not least, of 2nd Lieutenants assigned a platoon in B Company.
The notion that all kids in the 1960s were part of the hippie counter culture movement was not accurate, nor did it apply to the path taken by 185 Bravo Company Marines. These Marines heeded the call to serve, with nearly half of the class having earned coveted NROTC scholarships to Ivy League Schools and other top-rated institutions that might otherwise have been financially out-of-reach.
I was curious, as a writer and Jerry’s former wife, to learn more about the Marines of B Company. Thanks to the efforts of Andy Vaart, Capt, USNR (Ret); Bob Lange, Col, USMC (Ret); and Phil Norton, Capt, USMC (Ret), a collection of bios was received from most members of B Company, and Andy subsequently sent me a PDF of the soon-to-be published book, entitled “The Marines of Bravo Company, TBS, 1-67, 1966-2016.” The book will be a wonderful keepsake of the 50th Anniversary for guys who served in B Company. Undoubtedly the book will also find its way around the Marine Corps veterans’ circuit — and like the guys of Bravo Company, many will relate to the realization of when Basic School ended and training in an MOS began, a lot of the them never knew what route their Marine brothers took, especially career-wise, and I guarantee that is what makes “The Marines of Bravo Company….” a great read.