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.
Posts Tagged ‘POW-MIA Family League’
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.
FROM DISARRAY TO DISTINCTION
Approximately two years ago, efforts to account for our MIA service members and personnel from past wars were in serious trouble, and indirectly the DoD was tagged with the impending failure. I’m not referring to the difficulty of finding thousands of our loved ones’ remains – that’s a given, but rather the challenge of fixing the disarray that existed in the accounting program, causing MIA families and others to lose confidence in the system. Our nation’s largest global, ongoing humanitarian effort was in jeopardy – a program believed to be the only of its kind in the world today was hanging in the balance. In the end Congress gave the DoD an ultimatum: Fix it, or we’ll fix it.
Not only did the DoD meet the challenge, but in my opinion, the fix exceeded expectations.
Belated congratulations to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) on reaching full operational capability (FOC) as of January 8, 2016 – an important milestone achieved in one year, almost to the day. During the interim period, the DoD continued to account for missing personnel and provide information to MIA families, such as mine. A key element in the process appeared to be on the structural side, as in consolidating several organizations in the accounting community that had been operating quasi independently prior to the emergence of DPAA.
The importance of FOC status is a declaration that the reorganization is complete with all DoD legacy accounting organizations now merged into a single, unified defense agency headed by DPAA Director Michael Linnington. “Now is the time to sharpen our focus, increase our efforts, and maximize all aspects of our accounting efforts to better provide answers to the families of our missing.” said Linnington, of an effort that I believe was finally given proper support and respect by the powerbrokers on Capitol Hill.
NO MAN IS AN ISLAND…
Most successful leaders recognize that no man is an island, and Linnington’s style seems to ascribe to that adage. The accounting program is very demanding and multi-dimensional, so I’m sure his direct-support leadership team –civilian and military – are very capable individuals possessing topnotch skills, cultural fit, likeability and above all, capacity for dedication to the MIA accounting mission.
DPAA Principal Director Fern Sumpter-Winbush
Undoubtedly Fern Sumpter-Winbush was appointed by Linnington to serve as his DPAA Principal Director, because she fits all the necessary criteria and more for this critical support position. As a civilian hire, Winbush brings continuity to the agency. But even more important, she will be Linnington’s point person in the D.C. office, formulating policy, overseeing business development and increasing outreach initiatives, particularly in support of MIA families.
Raised in Boston, MA, Winbush was an honor graduate of the University of Massachusetts and a distinguished military graduate of Suffolk University’s ROTC program in Boston, which led to a very accomplished career in the U.S. Army, from which she retired as a full Colonel in 2015. Throughout Winbush’s career, she continued with her education and earned a Master of Science degree in National Resource Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, attended Command and Staff College and several other high-level military schools.
Winbush’s Army career began in 1983 as an enlisted soldier in the reserves, leading to a commission in 1990. She pinned on her first bar as a 2nd Lt., transitioning into the active duty military, initially serving in Military Intelligence.
With several deployments over the years to such places as Germany, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Korea and the Netherlands, Winbush’s last tour was closer to home in command of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall — a prestigious assignment and one in which she was undoubtedly proud, serving as the second female commander and the first African-American female commander at the base. She was also the 102nd commander of Ft. Meyer, which has a history dating back to the Civil War and is located adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery.
Historical Footnote: One of Winbush’s predecessors was none other than Gen. George S. Patton, who was garrison commander at Fort Myer from 1938-40 before moving on to serve in WWII and become one of our nation’s iconic wartime heroes.
In a future blog, I will feature Sergeant Major Michael Swam, who is serving a tour of duty with DPAA as the Senior Enlisted Leader. When you read about Swam, it will be apparent that he really knows the accounting process!