Our Mission:

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.


Vietnam Map


Posts Tagged ‘DPAA Principal Director Fern Sumpter Winbush’


Monday, January 23, 2017 @ 12:01 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis


Looking up at the tail portion of a USAF transport aircraft, sitting on the runway at DaNang Airport, is a beautiful sight, while observing the transfer of  remains recovered from the Vietnam War.  Ceremoniously brought aboard in individual caskets by members of our military, this is the process that often signals the beginning of the end for MIA families, waiting decades for their loved ones’ return.





What has become apparent to me after years of hoping to bring home Jerry’s remains from Vietnam is the importance of learning as much as possible about the system that turns hope into reality whenever possible. 

In my opinion, learning from experts like those associated with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) www.dpaa.mil, gives families, such as mine, an insider’s look at what goes on behind the scenes — both in D.C. and in Vietnam War locations, along with the Korean War and WW II.

For that reason, I try to stay connected with DPAA by attending regional family meetings and will travel to the one in Phoenix, AZ, on 28 January.  Hope is wonderful, but it’s not enough when it comes to keeping a loved one’s case active or understanding the challenges involved in the process — budgets; technology; personnel; field operations; DNA; and the list goes on.

Someone gave me great advice when I became involved in Jerry’s case years ago:  “Don’t assume anything.”  The effort to bring home our MIAs is not on autopilot.  We need to do our part.  If you are able to attend the Phoenix meeting, contact your casualty officer — all numbers are listed on the DPAA website, and ask if you can still sign up.  This meeting is open to MIA families from the Vietnam War, Korean War and WWII. 

I will cover the Phoenix meeting and bring you up-to-date on the latest in the near future.  Please stay connected.

Another important way to up your learning curve is to visit the National League of POW/MIA Families at  www.pow-miafamilies.orgDedicated to families with missing loved ones from the Vietnam War, Board Chair Ann Mills Griffiths has been in a leadership role for more than three decades and continues to oversee this very important organization.  The League co-hosts a major annual meeting with DPAA in Washington, D.C., and each year MIA family members throughout the country attend, as I expect they will do so again in June, 2017.  The League’s site is a great place to learn everything you want to know about the annual meeting and a lot more.   


Remembering Jerry... Jerry and Craig at Beaufort, SC, prior to his deployment to Vietnam.

Remembering Jerry…
Jerry and Craig at Beaufort, SC, shortly before his deployment to Vietnam.

If you have ever wondered why MIA families continue to search, wait and hope for the return of remains or information of a husband, son, brother or other loved one, still missing from the Vietnam War — my generation’s war, I would offer this advice: 

Make it personal and think of what it might feel like today if you lost someone you loved, after he/she went to war and never came home  for burial or, in some cases, were classified as “Last Known Alive.”   Leaving families with the horror of not knowing if a loved one was dead or alive is a terrible fate — did he die in a make-shift prison camp; buried somewhere in Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia; or sent to a prison in Russia, China or Hanoi.  Or, for that matter, are his remains still imprisoned in the cockpit of his aircraft, after being shot down in waters off the coast of Vietnam? Whatever the circumstances, the MIA tag, pertaining to our loved ones, is a life sentence for some families.

This is the only way I can possibly describe the profound sadness that stays with many of us, who rely upon DPAA and others involved in the effort to find our loved ones’ remains or even to provide answers.  

I  believe that Vietnam War families are among the most committed and protective of their missing loved ones.  Some of that can be traced back to the pain we experienced when the American public did not support the war, nor demonstrate compassion for our heroes who never came home — or for those that did! 

Maybe this will give you some idea of why we do what we do.  We don’t wish this upon anyone.


Christmas 2016 in San Diego. L-R Seated at Window: Elaine Zimmer Davis; Brett Davis; Alie Zimmer; Floor: Nick Zimmer, Bea Zimmer; Breeze Davis; Matt Zimmer; Craig Zimmer; Ron Davis

Christmas 2016 in San Diego. L-R Seated at Window: Elaine Zimmer Davis; Brett Davis; Alie Zimmer; Floor: Nick Zimmer, Bea Zimmer; Breeze Davis; Matt Zimmer; Craig Zimmer; Ron Davis

Newlyweds Brett & Jessica with Breeze..

Newlyweds Brett & Jessica with Breeze

Holidays are special for most American families, including MIA families, but very difficult for those of us with loved ones still unaccounted for from past wars. Several years ago, I asked my immediate family if they would allow me to post our annual Christmas picture on Jerry’s site, as a statement of solidarity for efforts to bring home his remains and those of other service members missing from the Vietnam War.  

Despite not knowing what image would appear in print, from one year to another, my family has felt from the beginning that a picture is worth a thousand words, regardless of its quality — rather, it is the message that counts.  Our story is that Jerry is loved and missed by his family, and we hope that his remains and those of other MIAs still unaccounted-for in Southeast Asia will be found and identified in 2017.  Please say a pray — we need all the help we can get. 


January 2009: Brett, Ron & Craig travel to Vietnam, hoping to visit Jerry's crash site. Although unable to visit the site, Craig learned a lot about Vietnam, the people and the culture.

January 2009: Brett, Ron & Craig travel to Vietnam, hoping to visit Jerry’s crash site. Although unable to visit the site, Craig and Brett learned a lot about Vietnam, the people and the culture.

I have been married to my second husband, Ron, for many years.  Having served in the Vietnam War as a combat pilot flying Huey Gunships, I was confident that Ron would understand the importance of never forgetting Jerry,  the father of my son, Craig, who was lovingly raised by Ron, along with our own son, Brett.  Bringing home Jerry’s remains eventually became a possibility and then a passionate quest.  

In 2004, Ron and I were living in Hong Kong and traveled to Vietnam — my first visit in country and Ron’s first since the war.  Although it was a business trip this time for Ron, we both went with the hope of visiting Jerry’s crash site. 

Even though that visit 13 years ago was largely unsuccessful in terms of our immediate goal, it was the beginning of our quest to visit Jerry’s site and hopefully bring home his remains.  Without Ron’s help, I probably would not have lasted more than six months, considering the psychological, physical and financial stress of our quest.   He has guided me through a world that I thought I knew but was way out of my league. 


The support of family, friends, veterans and our active duty military is appreciated.  In many ways, all of you keep the system running at what we hope is “full” speed.

Our loved ones gave their lives for this great country.  In return, we are asking that President Donald Trump, U. S. Congress and Secretary of Defense General James Mattis provide DPAA with a permanent Director; budget approval/resources to escalate recovery efforts in Southeast Asia; and exclusion from a hiring freeze because of the agency’s military mission and structure. 

DPAAs efforts to repatriate the remains of our MIAs to the United States are close to the finish line in Southeast Asia.  Over the years, DPAA and its predecessors have worked hard to develop a strong relationship with the Vietnamese government — together we are making a difference in finding remains and becoming allies. We need to keep up the momentum.     















Friday, April 29, 2016 @ 01:04 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

dpaa logo


Approximately two years ago, efforts to account for our MIA service members and personnel from past wars were in serious trouble, and indirectly the DoD was tagged with the impending failure. I’m not referring to the difficulty of finding thousands of our loved ones’ remains – that’s a given, but rather the challenge of fixing the disarray that existed in the accounting program, causing MIA families and others to lose confidence in the system. Our nation’s largest global, ongoing humanitarian effort was in jeopardy – a program believed to be the only of its kind in the world today was hanging in the balance. In the end Congress gave the DoD an ultimatum: Fix it, or we’ll fix it.

Not only did the DoD meet the challenge, but in my opinion, the fix exceeded expectations.


Belated congratulations to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) on reaching full operational capability (FOC) as of January 8, 2016 – an important milestone achieved in one year, almost to the day. During the interim period, the DoD continued to account for missing personnel and provide information to MIA families, such as mine. A key element in the process appeared to be on the structural side, as in consolidating several organizations in the accounting community that had been operating quasi independently prior to the emergence of DPAA.

The importance of FOC status is a declaration that the reorganization is complete with all DoD legacy accounting organizations now merged into a single, unified defense agency headed by DPAA Director Michael Linnington. “Now is the time to sharpen our focus, increase our efforts, and maximize all aspects of our accounting efforts to better provide answers to the families of our missing.” said Linnington, of an effort that I believe was finally given proper support and respect by the powerbrokers on Capitol Hill.

Preview DPAA’s 2016 Annual Government Briefing


Most successful leaders recognize that no man is an island, and Linnington’s style seems to ascribe to that adage.  The accounting program is very demanding and multi-dimensional, so I’m sure his direct-support leadership team –civilian and military – are very capable individuals possessing topnotch skills, cultural fit, likeability and above all, capacity for dedication to the MIA accounting mission.

DPAA Principal Director Fern Sumpter-Winbush, a recently retired Army Col, is DPAA Director Michael Linnington's point person in the agency's D.C. office, in formulating policy and several other long- and short-term initiatives.

DPAA Principal Director Fern Sumpter-Winbush

Undoubtedly Fern Sumpter-Winbush was appointed by Linnington to serve as his DPAA Principal Director, because she fits all the necessary criteria and more for this critical support position. As a civilian hire, Winbush brings continuity to the agency. But even more important, she will be Linnington’s point person in the D.C. office, formulating policy, overseeing business development and increasing outreach initiatives, particularly in support of MIA families.

Raised in Boston, MA, Winbush was an honor graduate of the University of Massachusetts and a distinguished military graduate of Suffolk University’s ROTC program in Boston, which led to a very accomplished career in the U.S. Army, from which she retired as a full Colonel in 2015. Throughout Winbush’s career, she continued with her education and earned a Master of Science degree in National Resource Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, attended Command and Staff College and several other high-level military schools.

Winbush’s Army career began in 1983 as an enlisted soldier in the reserves, leading to a commission in 1990.  She pinned on her first bar as a 2nd Lt., transitioning into the active duty military, initially serving in Military Intelligence.

With several deployments over the years to such places as Germany, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Korea and the Netherlands, Winbush’s last tour was closer to home in command of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall — a prestigious assignment and one in which she was undoubtedly proud, serving as the second female commander and the first African-American female commander at the base.  She was also the 102nd commander of Ft. Meyer, which has a history dating back to the Civil War and is located adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery.

Historical Footnote:  One of Winbush’s predecessors was none other than Gen. George S. Patton, who was garrison commander at Fort Myer from 1938-40 before moving on to serve in WWII and become one of our nation’s iconic wartime heroes.

 In a future blog, I will feature Sergeant Major Michael Swam,  who is serving a tour of duty with DPAA as the Senior Enlisted Leader.  When you read about Swam, it will be apparent that he really knows the accounting process!