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.

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

Posts Tagged ‘Lt Col Gene Mares’

VETERAN’S DAY 2015 – INNOCENT SOULS: VIETNAM 1968

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 @ 11:11 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

Aviary Photo_130914987469457130  A LABOR OF LOVE…

Reflecting on the Vietnam War is a personal journey that some veterans choose not to take.  That is, until one day, many years later, an older, wiser veteran accidentally finds compassion and beauty, where he once saw only darkness.

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  L-R — Clarice M. Yentsch, President of the Waypoint Foundation & Exhibition Curator; Glenn Hoover; C. J. Berwick, friend & owner of the Fish House & Fish House Encore Restaurants, who provided the beautiful cake. (Exhibition Debut, Key Largo Community Library)

Glenn Hoover, a Vietnam War combat veteran and recipient of our nation’s 3rd highest award for valor – the Silver Star, and a group of art professionals/personal friends – were busy putting the finishing touches on his Vietnam War photo exhibition, entitled INNOCENT SOULS:  VIETNAM 1968.  The production was on schedule, ready for the following day.

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The Team:  L-R — Clarice M. Yentsch, Curator; Kimmy Schryver-Edwards, Assistant Curator; Lecia Webber, friend and baker extraordinaire.  Unable to attend the debut was Producer, Anne Ritchie.

On November 8, 2015, the Key Largo, FL,  Community Library was packed with 130 visitors, who had come to view the exhibition, dedicated to my first husband, Capt. Jerry Zimmer – a casualty of the Vietnam War.   Needless to say, the team not only met their deadline but were grateful for the opportunity to invite guests  on Glenn’s special journey back in time.

By no small coincidence, the exhibition is now in full swing for Veteran’s Day, and it is getting some high profile attention in Key West.  A noted art haven, Key West is focusing today on our Vietnam veterans, as they celebrate the dedication of their Vietnam War Living Memorial.  Glenn’s team is also on site for a special showing of his work by the Key West Art and Historical Society.  They are featuring a pop-up exhibit of INNOCENT SOULS on the porch of the Historic Customs House Museum.

CONFRONTING THE PAST

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Key Largo Community Library was packed with 130 visitors, who had come to view the exhibition.

Beauty, as they say, is in the eyes of the beholder; however, most would probably agree that the image of the young Vietnamese girl at the beginning of this story is mystically beautiful with eyes that appear to have seen so much in so little time.  “She is the icon of the exhibit,” says Glenn, of the child, whose persona is undoubtedly woven into the exhibition’s namesake.  The image was taken in 1968 by Glenn – at the time, a 1stLt in the US Army, serving in the infantry, primarily in the III Corps area.  Some of his images were shot near Parrot’s Beak and around the Lai Khe area at the 1st Infantry’s Base Camp.

The images of the Montagnards (mountain people) were taken in II Corps when Glenn’s Battalion was attached to the Americal Division (23rd Infantry Division) for a brief operation.  “The Montagnards’ story is really terrible,” he says, adding that “many of the Special Forces have spent their lives as volunteer advocates for this persecuted minority….”

Although Glenn took hundreds of images, he packed them away for nearly a half century – to forget and go on with his life.    “I wish I would have kept in contact with some of the people, but at the time I wanted it to be part of my history and made no effort,” he says, not unlike many guys I’ve interviewed over the years.  “Now, especially looking into the eyes of the young Vietnamese kids, I wonder what happened to them,” says Glenn.

THE BACK STORY

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INNOCENT SOULS:  VIETNAM 1968 — Dedicated to Capt. Jerry A. Zimmer, Missing In Action/Body Not Recovered (August 29, 1969)

Glenn and Jerry were high school friends, honor students and football jocks at Vestal High School in the Triple Cities area of Upstate New York.  Even more important, the guys had a special family connection.  Glenn’s dad, Dick Hoover, was a WWII Marine, who eventually became Vestal High School’s football coach – much beloved, Coach Hoover mentored all his players, and I know for a fact that he had a lot to do with Jerry’s decision to become a Marine.  Raised on a dairy farm in the rural town of Maine, NY, Jerry used to talk about people he admired, and Coach Hoover was high on that list.

Of the 11 starting players on the Varsity, during Glenn’s and Jerry’s senior year (1961), all went on to graduate from college, which was pretty amazing during that era.  But even more amazing was that five graduated from Ivy League Schools, i.e., Glenn from Cornell and Jerry from Brown, and five went on to serve in combat roles in Vietnam.  The Vestal football stadium is named Dick Hoover Stadium for a good reason.  Crazy but true, Glenn’s brother, Jim, is head coach at Walton High School in Walton, New York, and last year won his 300th victory.  No surprise, he, too, is beloved and the Walton community showed their appreciation, naming the school’s football field, Jim Hoover Field.

I remember meeting Glenn in 1969, when he and his parents attended a small service for Jerry at the family’s dairy farm, located in a close-knit community, where everyone knew Jerry and always referred to me as “Jerry’s wife.”  My next visit to the farm was terribly hard, but my husband Ron and I drove across the country to ask Jerry’s parents for their blessing on our marriage.  Our families remained close until the Zimmers passed away in recent years.  They were special people, who loved their grandson, Craig — Jerry’s and my son, pictured above as a child, climbing the aircraft in Jerry’s arms, and as an adult kneeling at his dad’s Memorial Headstone in Arlington.

When Glenn heard that we were planning a Memorial Service for Jerry  in 2009, at Arlington National Cemetery, he flew up to D.C. from Key Largo.  Ever since then, we have stayed in touch.  More recently, Glenn told me of his exhibition and interest in dedicating it to Jerry and wanting to make sure it was okay with me.  I was honored and told him that I knew Jerry would be, too.

If the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) locates Jerry’s remains, I am certain that Glenn would be delighted to update his exhibition, announcing Jerry’s long-awaited homecoming.

NOTE:  Glenn tells me that the exhibition schedule is filling up quickly in various locations through November 2016.  I hope you will check out INNOCENT SOULS:  VIETNAM 1968 – it is a labor of love. Please visit  www.InnocentSoulsVietnam.org. &  www.facebook.com/InnocentSoulsVietnam1968.

REMEMBERING OUR FALLEN HEROES ON MEMORIAL DAY

Sunday, May 25, 2014 @ 12:05 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

On August 20, 2009, my first husband, Capt. Jerry Zimmer, USMC, was honored with a full military memorial service, performed by the Marine Corps at Arlington National Cemetery.  Jerry’s son, Craig, is shown here accepting the American Flag, as his father’s primary next of kin.  Forty years after his death, Jerry received a headstone in a special section of Arlington for missing-in-action service members and others with similar circumstances.

Many Americans will celebrate Memorial Day on Monday, May 26, 2014, in honor of the brave men and women who lost their lives while serving our country with the Armed Forces.  This day offers an opportunity to remember them in a special way, as is often the case among families with wartime losses and active duty military and veterans who lost buddies while serving our nation.

A lot of Americans fly the American flag, attend a Memorial Day ceremony or visit a loved one’s gravesite, giving meaning to a phrase that says it all – you are not forgotten. While in Washington, D.C. in late April, I visited Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place for so many of our young battlefield heroes. I am always left with a sense of pride and sorrow, and this visit was no exception.

Death Too Soon

My first visit to Arlington was during the Vietnam War, when Capt. Charlie Pigott, USMC, died in a horrific F-4, midair collision over Da Nang in May 1969.  Most of the people who attended his funeral were wives or girlfriends of pilots, still in country and unable to come home for the service.  I remember feeling so small and insignificant, surrounded by a seemingly endless mass of white headstones, yet thinking that it wouldn’t happen to Jerry.  We all loved Charlie and were heartbroken about his death and the other casualties involved in the collision. Three months later Jerry was gone, too.  Unlike Charlie, his remains did not come home, so Jerry did not have a funeral in Arlington, where I thought at the time all war casualties were buried, if not in their hometown.

As a young military wife whose experience with death was very limited, I was unprepared at first for a funeral without a body, but reality kicked in when I learned that Jerry was unable to eject from his F-4 — a supersonic jet.  I knew how much Jerry loved the farming community of Maine, NY, where he was raised and adored by the town’s people.  I arranged to have a service at the family farm, knowing that it would mean a lot to his parents.  That day was surreal for me then and still remains a blur in many ways.

Rewriting History

Fast forward 40 years.  Our family learned that Arlington has a special memorial section for service members missing in action; remains not recovered or identified; remains buried at sea; remains donated to science; or remains cremated with ashes scattered but no portion interred, as described on Arlington’s website.

On August 20, 2009, Jerry was honored at Arlington with a full Marine Corps memorial service.  A headstone was placed adjacent to one for  1st Lt Al Graf, the navigator who also perished when their aircraft went down.  Jerry’s memorial event was extraordinarily touching with  family members present, including his son, Craig, who accepted the American Flag, with his wife and children nearby, along with many of his dad’s friends and military buddies who came from great distances to pay their respects.

If Jerry’s remains are found, they will be interred in the burial section of Arlington. For more information about memorial services at Arlington, families should contact the casualty officer for their loved one’s branch of service.

A Beautiful Sight

Marking its 150th anniversary this year, Arlington will be dressed for Monday’s event, as is the case every Memorial Day.  The Old Guard recently completed their annual tribute to America’s fallen military heroes with its Flags-in ceremony, setting a small American flag at each of the 220,000 headstones in the cemetery. This tradition dates back to 1948, and belongs to the Army’s 3rd United States Infantry Regiment – a very unique unit that has my deepest respect for their patriotism and continued efforts to remember our nation’s heroes.  Thank you for what you do.

A special thanks this Memorial Day to all the men and women of DPMO and JPAC who continue to search for the remains of loved ones still unaccounted for from past wars.  Your efforts make it possible for many families to believe that one day their loved ones might be moved from the battlefields of long ago to the sacred grounds of Arlington or another special place of honor.