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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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NOTE:  BLOG POSTS ARE NOT UPDATED, SO INFORMATION MAY HAVE CHANGED OVER TIME.

MIA RECOVERIES: STAY THE COURSE

Thursday, December 6, 2012 @ 11:12 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

JPAC and Vietnamese Recovery Teams are deep within Vietnam’s Que Sons, May 2012, excavating Jerry’s and Al’s crash site.  Being adept at rock climbing is almost a necessity at many of the remaining jet crash sites from the Vietnam War, especially in Laos.

Until recently I have been more opposed than supportive of the Congressional mandate in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) dealing with missing persons from past wars.  However,  I always try to keep an open mind and must admit that this piece of legislation may end up being a gift in terms of keeping the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) moving forward on global recovery efforts of our MIAs in these uncertain times.   

Yet, understanding the nature of the accounting mission is imperative as the House Armed Services Committee and others examine the overall structure, leadership, redundancy and anything else within the accounting community that might affect the mandate’s success.  Tackling the big issues is important, but decision makers should tread carefully, because even the best intentions can turn into a nightmare when looking for ways to “work smarter” – translation:  do more with less – when juggling dollars and trying to make sense of gigantic cuts in the DoDs FY2013 budget.    

Families with MIAs still unaccounted-for hope that officials will communicate with knowledgeable sources inside the accounting command and within the National POW/MIA League of Families, especially League Chair Ann Mills-Griffiths who might not tell them what they want to hear, but rather what will work and what won’t.   This methodology will help get the job done and undoubtedly save money.

Military Control

Immersed in the accounting process, I often find myself reflecting on the Vietnam War and how proud Jerry was to be a Marine Corps jet pilot.  In letters, it was obvious that he was most excited about the missions that he felt confident helped our guys on the ground — that’s what it was all about.  Jerry was raised on a dairy farm, where helping your neighbor was in his genes – he brought that ethic with him to Vietnam, as did so many other young men who never came home.  It is right for our military to take care of Jerry and other MIAs whenever possible, and it appears that they will officially be given that role.  According to the 2013 NDAA, Section 525 will require the Secretary of Defense to ensure that there is a “continuous military command responsibility and accountability for the remains of each deceased member of the military who died outside of the United States.” 

Stay the Course

I have been a long-time advocate of JPAC, which reports to the US Pacific Command (USPACOM) and both are located in Honolulu.  JPAC oversees investigations, recoveries and identifications of all MIAs from past wars.  My support of the organization was earned after a long period of researching, writing and accompanying JPAC active duty military and civil service members (often retired military) on a couple of field operations – including a visit to Jerry’s and Al’s site — and attending regional and annual family league meetings.  Whether or not you like a particular person or think there is a better way to do something, JPAC is committed to bringing home our MIAs, and I am increasingly in awe of their accomplishments.  Everyone in JPAC spends time in the trenches, and they deserve our support. 

To be continued….

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