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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 MIA: USPACOM & JPAC — A STRONG PARTNERSHIP!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 @ 01:08 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

  

August 29th — A Special Day

Forty-three years ago today — August 29th — my first husband, Capt Jerry Zimmer, USMC, was killed in Vietnam and eventually classified as MIA.  The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), headquartered at Hickam AFB in Honolulu, continues to search for  his remains, along with those of his Radar Intercept Officer, 1st Lt. Al Graf. We don’t know if Jerry’s and Al’s remains will be found, but it won’t be for lack of trying on JPACs part. Jerry was everything to many of us, so we continue to hope, as does Al’s family.

JPAC Is Growing

For those of you who are just learning about JPAC, this organization is commanded by a group of active duty military, along with two retired military officers and a noted scientist in the civil service.  The military and civil service leadership gives the organization great continuity, and it works well.  JPAC and its predecessors have been conducting this enormous humanitarian mission for three decades.  The model extends to JPACs detachments in Southeast Asia and is expected to do likewise in other areas, where JPAC has ramped up recovery efforts.  Currently JPAC is comprised of approximately 400 people, and that number is expected to grow.  Above all, this is the  group that hikes in 100-degree heat through the jungles of Vietnam and other less-than-ideal places around the world, searching for our MIAs — I have a huge amount of respect for the work they do!  

JPACs Central Identification Laboratory (CIL), the only facility of its type in the world, is structured to work within a military environment.  All anthropologists – many of whom have very unique expertise — serve in the field at some point during their career, alongside military counterparts, in addition to their work in the lab. 

The CIL is breaking new ground in forensic technology, and this is helping JPAC comply with the 2010 Nat’l Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included a mandate that the lab identify at least 200 MIAs annually by FY2015.  JPAC stays busy with no lack of work due to the overwhelming number of unaccounted-for MIAs from past wars – WWII, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Iraq War and others, as necessary.  If there is a silver lining in the Congressional mandate, it would be the increase in JPACs budget, to allow compliance with the mandate and to bring home more of our MIAs from around the world. 

U. S. Pacific Command — Big Kahuna

JPAC reports to the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), one of our joint military commands, also headquartered in Honolulu.  To give you a sense of PACOMs depth, the command’s area of responsibility encompasses about half of the earth’s surface, 50% of the world’s population,36 nations, 3,000 different languages and five nations allied with the U.S. through mutual defense treaties (http://www.pacom.mil/about-uspacom/facts.shtml) . 

JPAC is a good fit for USPACOMs mission.   As the former wife of a Marine Corps jet pilot shot down in Vietnam, I am proud to tell people that our military takes care of its own.  This sends a strong message to allies and foes that our nation values those who serve, regardless of rank, religion, color or culture — we are Americans.  When I travel to other countries, I am amazed at the number of people who tell me that their country would never look for them, so it doesn’t surprise me to learn that they want to live in America, too.  And when I speak to young men and women in our military, who serve a tour of duty with JPAC, the message is always the same:  “I would want someone to bring me home, too.”

Accounting Community — DoD Powerhouse

While JPACs mission focuses more on field and forensic operations, there are several other DoD groups within the accounting community involved in the recovery process; however, they are not typically considered operational, as in boots-on-the-ground, but provide administrative, investigative and scientific support to JPAC and beyond, reporting at some level to the Secretary of Defense.  Included in this group are the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), Armed Forces DNA Laboratory (AFDIL), Life Sciences Equipment Laboratory of the Air Force (LSEL), casualty and mortuary affairs offices of the military departments and other groups as designated by the Secretary of Defense. 

The entire accounting community is important to families with MIAs still unaccounted-for, and we are grateful for their help in bringing home our loved ones – we need you.   Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

 

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