Our Mission:

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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An Emotional Journey

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 @ 09:04 PM  posted by Elaine

 

JPACs Maj Ed Nevgloski, USMC, hiked to Jerry's crash site last year and was instrumental in helping our family get the case reopened. Maj Ski soon will be heading to Quantico for his next tour, and we will miss him! Ed is standing on the impact point at the top of the mountain where the crash occurred.

 When our family began the quest to bring home Jerry’s remains, we truly didn’t understand much about the process, except for the emotional side of this complicated undertaking . And while we have come far, the journey is still very emotional.

 I knew nothing of JPAC, the government group that searches for wartime MIAs throughout the world, until a couple of years ago. I was one of those people who dealt with the incredible pain of losing Jerry at a young age by not dealing with it. In fact, I can remember the day when I was no longer able to avoid the reality of Jerry’s death. In 2004, Ron and I traveled to Vietnam and tried unsuccessfully to get close to Jerry’s site. Monsoon rains had washed out pertinent roads and, needless to say, we didn’t get too far.

 I got out of the car when we came to a clearing, and looked toward the mountains off in the distance, and the scene broke my heart. I cried for hours, and believe me, I rarely let anyone see me cry. All I could think of was that Jerry deserved more than being left behind in a maze of jungle with no one to care that the area had special significance. At that point, I didn’t know Jerry’s remains might be recoverable; however, this experience eventually led to our current effort, which has helped me channel my overwhelming emotion into something positive — a goal that is leading to excavation.

 Some people consider excavations as closure, but I see them as a chance for the family to finally “rescue” a loved one from an anonymous resting place to one of honor and dignity at home. And while it is not always possible for reasons beyond anyone’s control to repatriate a loved one’s remains, I personally feel that the effort, alone, can offer an opportunity for emotional healing, too.

 For families who have been able to move on, I commend you and offer this advice: Stay true to your values, and don’t feel pressured to undertake this hugely emotional journey — you are already where I hope to be some day.

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