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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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POW JON CAVAIANI RETURNS TO VIETNAM BATTLEFIELD

Thursday, October 27, 2011 @ 05:10 PM  posted by Elaine

  QUANG TRI, Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Aug. 6, 2011) – Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam veteran Jon Cavaiani hands out candy to the Montagnard children of Vietnam. Cavaiani, a witness to the Hickory Hill Assault in the remote hills of Vietnam, provided first-hand knowledge of the battle to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command which helped narrow down the specific site location for future missions.  (DoD photo by Mr. Thiep Van Nguyen II, Forensic Photographer/Released)

See more JPAC Photos of Vietnam August, 2011

The attached image and several others, viewed through the above link, tell a story of JPACs efforts to bring home our MIAs, still unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. As you view the beautifully captured images, you will see that recovery efforts – frequently conducted under difficult conditions — demand dedication, stamina and belief in the idea that our MIAs are not dispensable.

Often, JPACs operations are duly noted by the locals, including children, who live in rural areas and rarely see foreigners, like Jon Cavaiani, whose smile and lollipops no doubt were a big hit. What the kids don’t see, however, is that the man known as Staff Sgt Cavaiani, USA, served two years as a POW in North Vietnamese prison camps — “Plantation Gardens” and “Hanoi Hilton”– before his release in 1973. Cavaiani was awarded the Medal of Honor on December 12, 1974, from President Gerald Ford, for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action in the Republic of Vietnam on June 4 and 5, 1971….”

Interestingly, Cavaiani wasn’t even supposed to become a soldier. A naturalized citizen in 1968, he was declared 4-F because of an allergic reaction to bee stings. Somehow the Brit turned American citizen figured out a way to by-pass the bee problem and ended up in the front lines with the Army as a Special Forces security expert in clandestine operations.

Like many veterans, Cavaiani recently returned to Vietnam hoping to help JPAC pinpoint areas where some of his men went down during the contentious Hickory Hill Battle for which he received the Medal of Honor. Cavaiani was wounded several times while trying to defend his platoon’s position, as they were being overrun by the enemy.

Something about people like Cavaiani that continue to make us proud. I think it’s because they don’t give up without a fight – whether it’s during wartime or nearly four decades later, combing former battlefields, looking for buddies who never made it home!

2 Responses to “POW JON CAVAIANI RETURNS TO VIETNAM BATTLEFIELD”

  1. bbc says:

    Your blog is fantastic bbc.

  2. I’m honored — thank you!


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