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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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Humanitarian Outreach — JPACs Medical & MIA Efforts in Laos

Friday, August 19, 2011 @ 12:08 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

U.S. Navy Cmdr. David Boyd, M.D., augmented from the Navy Medicine Support Command in Jacksonville, FL, is teaching a young Laotian mother about healthy nutritional regimens for mother and child, while working along side JPAC recovery teams. Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Nina Hughes, U.S. Navy, Released. PLEASE CLICK THE FOLLOWING LINK TO VIEW MORE IMAGES.

JPAC Medical Outreach in LAOS

The attached photo stream was produced in conjunction with JPAC and offers a brief look at the organization’s humanitarian outreach in Laos. Although I haven’t mentioned a lot about Laos because Jerry was killed in Vietnam where most of our losses occurred, I am learning more about JPACs challenges and successes over the years in Laos, where we still have over 300 MIAs unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.

Thanks to the United States Pacific Command’s Theater Campaign Plan, JPAC has been able to give the people of Laos a helping hand. In July, medical teams treated more than 800 people, providing routine medical care and teaching patients about healthy nutritional regimens. The Laos “Health Engagement” program has been in effect for more than 10 years and facilitates U.S. military physicians from all over the Pacific to gain valuable experience in Tropical Medicine.

As many of our Vietnam War vets will remember, Laos is known for its remote and austere locations; therefore, Special Forces medics are paired with military physicians, affording both parties the opportunity to expand their knowledge in diseases rarely encountered in U.S. clinics. JPAC provides five opportunities a year for Physicians and Independent Duty Corpsman/Medical Technicians to augment Health Engagements while working alongside recovery teams.

For families with missing loved ones in Laos, it is important to know that humanitarian programs have long been considered the backbone of establishing people-to-people friendships, i.e., getting a foot in the door to countries that needed our help, and we needed theirs. In fact, during the Reagan era in the mid to late 1980s, humanitarian programs in Vietnam were believed to be instrumental in breaking the logjam that prevented one of JPACs early predecessors, the Joint Casualty Recovery Center (JCRC, 1973-92), from creating a solid, ongoing repatriation program for our POWs and MIAs. For the most part, nongovernmental organizations were the only ones allowed to perform humanitarian efforts back then, largely because the U.S. did not have formal relations with Vietnam until the early nineties.

Today everything has changed. While it might seem to be business as usual for USPACOM – a major military command – to get behind humanitarian efforts in Laos and/or to be teaming with the Vietnamese in a military-to-military partnership, these are extraordinary and long overdue changes. Our military has returned to Southeast Asia in peace, bringing with them the promise of a new beginning, according to what I heard during the recent government briefing at the POW/MIA League Meeting in D.C. This comes at a time when families with missing loved ones from the Vietnam War know that humanitarian efforts work both ways.

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