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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Posts Tagged ‘VMFA-542’
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.
The joint meeting of the 2016 National League of Families (aka, League) and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is an important annual event, held in D.C., and combined to allow Vietnam War MIA families an opportunity to be among others coping with the loss of a loved one in Southeast Asia, while still seeking answers that can only come through official US Government channels.
The three-day event, June 22 – 25, 2016,* is tightly scheduled with League Chair Ann Mills-Griffiths presiding for the 47th Annual League event! All presentations delivered by DPAA leadership and staff, League officials and special guests are timed for efficiency, and Mills-Griffiths keeps the program on a roll.
Every time I attend the annual meeting, I am amazed at the quality of the presentations and number of experts in attendance. I always leave with a feeling that I’ve learned something new or gained a better understanding of something I had never been able to truly grasp in the past.
NOTE: The initial schedule made available to MIA families may eventually include one or two changes related to a particular speaker and/or a presenter’s topic, but below is a partial list of the 2016 presentation agenda:
Mills-Griffiths, Assessing the Reorganization of Today;
DPAA Director Michael Linnington, Today’s Mission, Priority & Objectives;
DPAA Director Strategic Initiatives, Dr. Thomas Holland, Strategic Partnerships Update;
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, Post-Vietnam Trip (Tentative);
DPAA Director Asia Pacific Directorate Col Michael Gann, USMC, Asia & Pacific Regional Approach;
Commander Navy Expeditionary Command RADM Frank Morneau, USN, Maximizing Capabilities to Expand the Accounting Process;
Others on the list are people that most of us are familiar with, such as Richard Childress, Senior League Policy Advisor; General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF, (Ret.), US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs; Johnie Webb, DPAA Deputy Director Outreach & Communications; Bob Wallace, Executive Director & Assistant Adjutant General, VFW; and many more who bring so much value to this annual event.
Also, a special welcome to two members of Director Linnington’s leadership team attending and/or presenting for the first time at the annual event: BG Mark Spindler, USA, DPAA Deputy Director, who will discuss the agency’s Operational Perspective Worldwide; and Fern Sumpter Winbush, DPAA Principal Staff Director, who will focus on the agency’s role in facilitating Family and Veteran Engagement. I look forward to meeting them and hope they enjoy the event.
*If you are an MIA family member and have not registered but would like to attend the Government Briefing ONLY, please contact your casualty officer. Now that the deadline for registering has closed, I don’t know if there are exceptions; however, I do know that credentials are required of all attendees.
HOW DOES THE ANNUAL MEETING DIFFER FROM REGIONAL MEETINGS?
Anyone who has read my posts about the Regional DPAA meetings knows of my respect for these events held throughout the country. However, it is tough to compare the annual meeting to the regionals, because the annual event is dedicated to issues involving Vietnam War losses and recoveries, while the regionals cover all pertinent past wars.
Although some of the DoD experts at the Vietnam War annual meeting also participate in the one for the Korean War and Cold War, the majority of those attending our meeting have a long history as analysts, historians and investigators in Southeast Asia. This is very important, because Vietnam War families have been involved with efforts to find loved ones for years, and many are highly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of their loved one’s case and all the nuts and bolts in the recovery system, so it helps to have government attendees fluent, as well.
The expertise that DoD participants bring is especially apparent during the Department of Defense Q&A session, held on the last official day of the meeting. Families are given an opportunity to ask questions, and some are very penetrating, historically and otherwise. The DoD is adept at answering most questions, and they do a great job. Mills-Griffiths is on deck ensuring that questions are not personal, as in discussing a particular family member’s case, and that answers are technically correct – Ann is legendary for her unbelievable recall of events dating back decades.
I will cover the 2016 event in a future blog and showcase many of the people in attendance. Please stay connected.