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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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Vietnam Memories — Remembering the Happy & Sad Times

Saturday, May 15, 2010 @ 09:05 PM  posted by Elaine

Stacy and Craig, with Charlie (R) and Jerry (L) at our home in Kingsville, Tx.
A lot of people have asked me in recent years why I settled in California after Jerry’s death, since he was an East Coast Marine and I’d never been to the West Coast. The truth is that Craig and I moved to Tustin, CA, near El Toro Air Station, because I had talked my friend, Carol Pigott, into moving there after her husband, Charlie, died in Vietnam, three months before Jerry. Both guys attended Brown University on ROTC scholarships, so we were a foursome from the beginning.

Jerry and Charlie also were in the same Marine Corps Basic School class (1-67) at Quantico, and ended up in the same squadron, VMFA-542, in Vietnam. Charlie was a great guy – he made me laugh, just looking at him. Charlie did what came natural, all 6’ plus of him! For instance, during flight school, we moved several times, as the guys transitioned from one phase of the program to another. I’ll never forget the time we were moving again, and Charlie drove with daughter Stacy, who must have been under a year old, strapped in her potty chair, from Texas to Florida (I think). Carol may have flown ahead. Upon their arrival, Charlie pulled up to our house and there was Stacy, looking cute as could be – a chubby little towhead — in her potty chair, sitting next to her dad, who was grinning from ear to ear. That was Charlie.

It was a huge blow when Charlie was killed in a horrific refueling accident. It was his second flight in country, and the accident took out a huge number of people. All the wives gathered at Arlington and a few of the guys who had returned from Vietnam. For some of us, it was a wake-up call that no one was invincible. Yet, in my mind, that didn’t apply to Jerry.

When I learned of Jerry’s death, there was no doubt that Craig and I were going to California. How could I tell Carol to start a new life on the West Coast and not take my own advice? I bought a new car, packed up Craig and prepared to leave the home that Jerry had bought us before his deployment. The day before we left, my mother told me she was coming along for the ride. She and Craig sat in the back seat, and it must have been a hellish, 3,000 mile ride. Craig loved his Bambi book, and she read it to him about a thousand times.

As I write this blog from our beach house in Rhode Island, I am reminded of so many happy times and, of course, the sad ones, too. Certainly, I will never forget the day when the casualty officer told me that neither Jerry nor his remains would be coming home. But I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to rewrite a little bit of history, four decades later, if JPAC is able to find and identify Jerry’s remains after all these years.

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