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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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Archive for April, 2011

MIA in Vietnam: Why I Need to Bring Home Jerry’s Remains

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 @ 11:04 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

Jerry and Craig in Beaufort, SC -- Jerry's last duty station before deploying to Vietnam. Photo: 1968

Every family with an MIA in Vietnam or elsewhere in the world has a story to tell of why they want their loved one’s remains to come home. I am not sure if I answered my own question in this blog, but I am dedicated to seeing the journey through, no matter how it ends.

When Jerry left for Vietnam in 1969, we said good-bye to each other at Logan Airport in Boston, MA. Like all other young pilots, he was excited to get over to Vietnam and join his Marine Corps buddies from Basic School and Flight School. I never thought that our tearful good-bye on a cold day in February, four decades ago, would be our last. During Jerry’s time in country, I watched every TV segment about the war, knew the names of battles and cared deeply about our military—not just Jerry, but everyone fighting in that faraway country for a cause that seemed justified at the time. Everything changed in a matter of minutes when a Marine Corps casualty officer showed up at my door six months later, telling me that Jerry was not coming home in a casket or otherwise. We were a week away from R&R in Hawaii. I was packed and ready to go. The Zimmers were arriving the next morning to take Craig back to the farm during my absence. It wasn’t to be. Read more

REMBEMBERING SPECIAL ‘VIETNAM’ HEROES 2012

Friday, April 8, 2011 @ 11:04 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

When Ron and I visited the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hawaii last year, we had a brief tour of the Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) where remains are stored, prior to undergoing forensic examination for identification purposes. We didn’t go inside the actual room where remains lay on a couple of tables; however, we had a clear view through a wall of glass, from where we stood in the corridor. On the opposite side of the corridor was another glassed-in room, but this one looked like a “clean room” with high tech equipment.

Johnie Webb, Deputy to the Commander, explained that it was the lab’s autopsy room. He paused for a moment before telling me that 10 years earlier a horrific helicopter crash in Vietnam took the lives of seven Americans from the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA –the predecessor to JPAC), along with nine Vietnamese, who were flying to a recovery site when the accident occurred. “Our team went to the crash site and personally brought our people back to this autopsy room,” said Johnie. “We wanted to take care of our own.”

On April 7, 2011, JPAC marked the 10th Anniversary of their loss with a remembrance ceremony at Quang Binh Province, to honor the sacrifice of these 16 people who perished as a result of the 2001 helicopter crash. They died as heroes, while working to keep a sacred U.S. promise: to recover Americans still unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.

Flying aboard a Russian-made Mi-17, the team is believed to have been caught in deteriorating weather conditions with poor visibility before going down in high terrain. That crash was the first and only fatal accident involved in the recovery of American remains in more than 25 years.

“All of these men, our own and the Vietnamese, risked their lives and it is with great humility that we honor their sacrifice,” said Maj. Gen Stephen Tom, Commander of JPAC.

My heart goes out to every family who lost a loved one in the accident and to the members of JPAC who still mourn the loss of their good buddies. I know they were extraordinary people, doing a job in which sacrifice doesn’t even begin to explain the nature of the business, never mind losing one’s life in the process. Your loved ones will always be heroes to me and to anyone else who understands the hardships endured by those who help recover our MIAs.  I wish you peace.

Names of Americans who died in the accident are U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rennie M. Cory Jr., U.S. Army Lt. Col. George D. Martin III, U.S. Air Force Maj. Charles E. Lewis, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Steven Moser, U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Pedro J. Gonzales, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tommy J. Murphy, U. S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert M. Flynn.  Also honored were members of the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Personnel (VNOSMP) SR COL Tran Van Bien,  VNOSMP Mr. Nguyen Thanh Ha, Northern Service Flight Company (NSFC)  LTC Nguyễn  Văn Hà, NSFC LTC Nguyễn Thanh Sơn, NSFC MAJ Vũ Phạm Thế  Kiên, NSFC MAJ Nguyễn Hữu Nhậm,  NSFC LT Giáp Thanh Ngân, NSFC LT Đặng  Ngọc, and NSFC LT Phạm Duy Dũng.

I originally wrote this blog last year as a remembrance to the heroes listed above who gave their lives trying to recover our loved ones’ remains in Vietnam.  They will never be forgotten.