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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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MIA Humanitarians: TBS 6-67 and 18 Other TBS Classes!

Saturday, April 16, 2011 @ 12:04 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis


If a picture tells a thousand words, then the attached says a lot about retired Marine Lt. Col. Jack Wells and his long-time penchant for helping children succeed in life—no matter where they live. While there was not much that Jack could do back in his Vietnam days (1968-69) when he was assigned as forward observer (FO) for Alpha & Bravo, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment (1/7), he and his Basic School Class (TBS 6-67), along with 18 other TBS classes have more than made up for lost time.

For several years, Jack and TBS 6-67 collected thousands of dollars in donations from fellow classmates and friends to help the children of a small village in the Central Highlands of Vietnam—not far from where the regimental CP for the 5th Marines and a 155mm howitzer battery were located during the Vietnam War. As you can imagine, the fighting was extremely heavy in that area.

Today, the village is a warm and friendly place, especially towards Americans—maybe in part because of former Marine 1st Lt Tom Wannamaker’s donation of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls—pure Americana–to some lucky students at the village’s primary school. But more likely because Mac Dinh Chi School was built with donations from TBS 6-67 classmates and a lot of good friends (Tom and wife Joni were in the latter category, since he went through TBS 4-67 with my other friends, former Marine 1st Lt. Mike West and retired Marine Brig Gen Mike Neil). In fact, the second largest donation came from a lieutenant in TBS 5-68, who served as a motor transport officer in Vietnam. And then Jack’s barber and sister — both Vietnamese — stepped forward, and the list of goes on.

Working with East Meets West (EMW), a first-class facilitator for humanitarian efforts in country, Jack and his classmates decided that a school was the perfect way to honor 43 Basic School classmates killed in the Vietnam War—the highest number of losses ever to come out of Quantico’s Basic School, since the Korean War. He has chronicled classmates’ wartime experiences in his recently released book, “Class of ’67,” after conducting years of introspective interviews.

Last month, Jack returned from his umpteenth visit to Vietnam, after delivering another check from the faithful back home, to assist with a dental outreach program for students at Mac Dinh Chi—the dentists and assistants work gratis, but nearly everything else comes with a price tag. “Over 700 students at Mac Dinh and a couple of surrounding schools received dental care that included 357 fillings, 259 extractions, 21 X-Rays, approximately 700 applications of sealants/fluoride and enough antibiotics for students who had extractions,” said Jack.

The TBS school project, along with thousands of other humanitarian efforts, continue to help bridge a long-time psychological gap between America and Vietnam, providing crucial help to the country’s needy, especially to children in rural areas. But there’s a special bonus. Humanitarian projects come with an olive branch, demonstrating that we are serious about assisting the Vietnamese in their wartime recovery efforts. In turn, they are increasing their efforts to help us recover MIAs, like my first husband, Jerry, and his RIO, Al Graf. Thank you, Class of ’67, and all others like you!

Word gets around quickly within the Marine Corps and, of course, the rural villages of Vietnam. Stepping up to the plate on behalf of FedEx was its in-country director and the managing director of licensees. It comes as no surprise that FedEx founder, former Marine Capt Fred Smith, would get behind a humanitarian project in Vietnam where he served in 1968-69. FedEx employees delivered 1,500 notebooks to the children gathered at Mac Dinh, as well as $1,500 in seed money for a dental outreach program to be conducted at a FedEx constructed school next year, near Chu Lai. Way to go, FedEx!

2 Responses to “MIA Humanitarians: TBS 6-67 and 18 Other TBS Classes!”

  1. On behalf of the East meets West Foundation Dental Program I want to express our gratitude for the privilege of working side by side with Jack Well’s Marine Basic Class 6-67 to care for the students at the Mac Dinh Chi Primary School near Tam Ky, Our 15 year mission has been to provide humanitarian assistance to underprivileged children living in central Vietnam. To date we have helped improve the lives of over 90,000 patients. We partner with many outside organizations to offer this free treatment including the US Military as they currently conduct their joint service medical missions. But one of our highest honors has been to serve with the USMC Veterans as they continue to return to help the rural Vietnamese recover from the effects of the War. We hope that the recovery of Jerry is successful very soon. Dr. Charles F. Craft Founder EMWF Dental Program

  2. I am so humbled by the work that EMWs Dental Program is doing in Vietnam and were it not for Jack’s tireless efforts to keep people like me in the loop, I might not have known. On my next visit to Vietnam, I will try to include a visit to Mac Dinh Chi and one of EMWs outreach programs. I look forward to meeting you in the future. You have a great partner in Jack Wells.

    My best,
    Elaine


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