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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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DPAA DIRECTOR MICHAEL LINNINGTON VISITS SOUTHEAST ASIA

Monday, November 23, 2015 @ 05:11 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

Hanoi - DPAA Director Michael Linnington meets with Vietnam Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ha Kim Ngoc during his visit to Southeast Asia. Linnington visited DPAA detachments in Bangkok, Thailand; Vientiane, Laos; and Hanoi, Vietnam, and met with senior U.S. officials in each country, as well as senior host nation counterparts. He also met with U.S. Embassy staff and Cambodian counterparts in Phnom Penh. Photo by Lee tucker

Hanoi – DPAA Director Michael Linnington meets with Vietnam Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ha Kim Ngoc during his visit to Southeast Asia. Photo by Lee Tucker

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Director Michael Linnington conducted his first major  tour of Southeast Asia, Oct 30 – November 12, with stop-offs in Vietnam; Laos; Thailand; and Cambodia.  As is customary, Linnington met with senior U.S. officials and their in-country counterparts, along with DPAA leadership and staff at detachments in Hanoi, Vientiane and Bangkok.

With a little less than six months at the helm, Linnington was undoubtedly eager to get into the field and see how his operation works beyond the Beltway.  As a retired Lt. General with an impressive resume, Linnington knows that there is nothing like boots-on-the-ground when it comes to assessing a situation, and that’s what prompted him to visit several excavation sites during his multi-country visit.

Observing DPAA recovery teams, working alongside their in-country counterparts, is an amazing experience for the uninitiated, but as a family member with a loved one still unaccounted-for in Vietnam, I found Linnington’s remarks especially heartwarming:  “The opportunity to get out into the field and visit with our teams and host nation partners working to account for our missing countrymen was the highlight of my trip,” said Linnington.  “The dedication and commitment of the young men and women on our recovery teams is truly inspiring.” 

Linnington went on to compliment the host countries for their assistance, saying that we couldn’t do this without them. 

VIETNAM’S REACTION

When Secretary of Defense Ash Carter selected Linnington, a retired, high level Army officer, to lead DPAA, he sent a powerful message that the U.S. was serious about the MIA issue, and this was not lost on the Vietnamese.

Following a reception for Linnington in Hanoi, November 10, the Vietnamese government released a statement in which Deputy Defense Minister Lt. Gen Nguyen Chi Vinh said that “Vietnam always gives priority to cooperation with the U.S. on the search for the remains of U.S. servicemen who went missing during the war in Vietnam.”     

The Vietnamese government was obviously pleased with Linnington’s response, saying that he thanked the government, people and war veterans for their valuable assistance in looking for and repatriating the remains of U.S. servicemen who went missing in Vietnam. 

RELATIONSHIP BUILDING

For those of us with loved ones still missing in Southeast Asia, the value of good relationships cannot be emphasized enough, so I am pleased that Linnington’s trip went well.  As I reflect on Deputy Defense Minister Vinh’s words in which he spoke of giving “priority to…the U.S. on the search for …remains,” I am reminded that our respective countries have come a long way in developing an excellent working relationship.  Nobody knows that better than families who have followed a loved one’s case for decades.  Clearly, Linnington gets it!

“I am honored to have been selected by the Secretary to lead this most important mission.  As a former soldier myself, I take very seriously the commitment that we leave no one behind,” said Linnington, also explaining that he was looking at “every opportunity to speed up this mission” and that “those we search for deserve no less, as do their families.” (View a brief bio on Linnington).

Hopefully, 2016 will be a great year for Vietnam War recoveries and identifications — 1,626 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. 

Our family is praying that the coming year will bring good news, possibly about the return of Jerry’s and Al’s remains.  Please stay connected, and I will pass along updates as they become available. 

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