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 ‘National POW/MIA League of Families’

MIA RECOVERIES: U.S. MILITARY RAMPS UP HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS

Thursday, November 21, 2013 @ 12:11 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis
This flag is a reminder of why the MIA accounting community is so important.  Their  mission is to bring home our MIAs from former battlefields around the world, to the extent possible amd a promise worth keeping.

This flag is a reminder of why the MIA accounting community is so important. Their mission is to bring home our MIAs from former battlefields around the world, to the extent possible — a promise worth keeping.

As the former wife of an MIA, still unaccounted for in Vietnam, I have spent much of my life trying to figure out if I could have done something more for my first husband, Capt. Jerry Zimmer, for whom this blog is dedicated. Unlike many wives who worried about their husband’s aircraft being shot down, I never thought for a minute that Jerry would not come home. He was invincible in my eyes, and I was totally unprepared when the unthinkable happened on August 29, 1969.

I’ve come to accept the realization that guilt follows most MIA family members for one reason or another, and I am no exception.

For many of us, the ability to transfer some of the burden to the accounting community, consisting of several groups, including the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) and Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), has been a blessing; but for some, it has become a transference of blame to someone else.

BOOTS ON THE GROUND

Those who follow efforts to recover our service members from past wars, now classified as MIAs, know that our active duty military plays an important role. And with the evolution of the recovery program, focused these days on a much larger mission, involving MIAs in the many thousands, our military’s humanitarian outreach is expected to become even more critical and quadruple over time. In my opinion, the program cannot survive without members of our military.

Most active duty members I’ve met during my many visits to Vietnam have also served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been a long-time advocate of our military, but never to the extent that I am today. These young men and women, who work behind the scenes and receive little-to-no recognition, are my heroes. They truly understand the mission, perhaps better than most, since they have been there, done that and made it out alive.

What many MIA followers do not realize is that military members, assigned to JPAC field operations, know of the negative media publicity that has surfaced in recent months, often focused on JPAC. Working in unbelievable conditions, trying to bring home our loved ones, our military take these hits personally.

THE LEARNING CURVE

I did not know of JPAC until recent years. As the military command, headquartered at Hickam AFB in Honolulu, HI, that searches former battlefields throughout the globe, JPAC is the operational wing within the accounting community that conducts field investigations and excavations, hoping their efforts will lead to recoveries and identifications of MIAs through material evidence, DNA and other forensic techniques. JPACs Central Identification Laboratory (CIL), also located at Hickam, has the final say in all identifications, as it seeks to reunite families with their loved ones for burial in the United States, the country for which they paid the ultimate price.

When I began writing about our family’s quest to bring home Jerry’s remains, I had finally found a way to help Jerry and hopefully a few others involved in the process. Although I knew little about JPACs mission, I was accustomed to traveling throughout the world and thanks to my husband, Ron, a Marine veteran who has given me all his FF mileage and much more, I landed at the door of JPACs Detachment 2 in Hanoi again and again. Today, MIA family members are no longer afraid to visit Vietnam, and in most cases, they also end up at the detachment. Armed with a lot of luck and solid research, many of us have become quasi participants in our loved one’s case.

LOOKING AHEAD

What the future holds for our MIAs is anyone’s guess. With the mandate in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring that the CIL produce 200 identifications annually by 2015 and thereafter, the bar has been set incredibly high.

JPAC and DPMO were expected to come up with a plan, outlining their vision for an overhaul of the accounting community for Senate sub-committee hearings this fall; however, Sen. Clair McCaskill (D-MO), chair of the committee,  just announced that she is writing legislation to extend the deadline by one year — presumably Congress has a busy schedule with healthcare and election issues until then.  This will offer JPAC more time to get its house in order, and DPMO is likely to be making some internal upgrades, as well.

Meanwhile our military is still on the job, performing this enormous humanitarian mission to bring home our loved ones –an effort that makes America different and to one Vietnamese cabbie, a place he thinks of as “heaven.”

Q & A on Writing a Book and More….

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 @ 09:10 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

Jerry with our son, Craig, at MCAS Beaufort, before deploying to Vietnam. This car was a piece of junk, but we loved it.

 MARINE F-4 PHANTOM FORAY: 1-4 NOVEMBER 2012

Q. The biggest challenge to working on Jerry’s case?
A. It’s the emotional aspect — no doubt about it!  Waking up every morning since his case was reopened and trying to stay upbeat about a very sad event in my life — Jerry meant the world to me, and reliving every aspect of our time together is beyond difficult. I am still close to his mom, and I will always be heartbroken for her and other family members, especially Jerry’s and my son, Craig.

Q. Do my comments about Jerry bother Ron?
A. I’m sure they hurt in some ways, but Ron is not competing with someone who is going to come walking through the door. Years ago, I truly felt that I would need to make a decision between the two, because Jerry would come home, but that was as a result of being young and thinking he was invincible. Hope doesn’t replace reality. Ron knew how I felt when we married, and I never hid my feelings about Jerry from him. As a former combat pilot, serving in Vietnam, this made all the difference in our relationship. Ron did a wonderful job of raising Craig for which I will always be grateful — plus, we have now been married for decades.

Q. Why not let JPAC do the job?
A. I do, but there are still 80,000-plus MIAs unaccounted-for from past wars, and I have been in a unique position to recruit a lot of help from Ron, a retired Marine and also a helicopter pilot, and many active duty military and veterans, all of whom have brought something useful to the case. At one point, Ron compiled all our information into a very detailed PowerPoint and handed it to JPAC to help them do their job.

Q. Do you get special attention from JPAC?
A. Yes and no — access would be a better word, but that access is not exclusive to me. After attending several Family League meetings in D.C. and regional ones around the country, traveling to JPAC headquarters in Hawaii with Ron and visiting Detachment 2 in Vietnam on several occasions, I have come to know the people who do this work and have a huge amount of respect for them – at headquarters and in the detachments. I hope they feel likewise. Our family could not do this without JPACs help. Missteps in the mid ’90s placed the case in the “No Further Pursuit Category,” and as a result JPAC has tried hard to rectify the error. In the end, we are like everyone else with an MIA still unaccounted for, JPAC cannot make the remains appear – time has taken its toll on all remains from the Vietnam War, no good deeds can ensure a happy ending.  This is the reality.

Q. What would you do over?
A. Not tell anyone that I was writing a book, which actually began while living in Hong Kong! I have been a writer/editor for years, but writing a first-person account of something that was such a happy time in my life — but became the most painful — has been very difficult. I jokingly told a friend recently that I needed a writing therapist. As a long-time non-fiction writer, who has typically focused on third-person stories – not first person, the subject matter is very personal, and I’m not used to sharing in that way. But, after assessing my strengths on how to best honor Jerry’s memory, in addition to championing his repatriation, I decided writing this book was the best thing I could do.

Q. Why do a blog if writing a book is so painful?
A. The blog is part of a bigger picture involving MIAs from the Vietnam War and beyond. It is important that everyone do their part to help keep the MIA situation on the front burner – this is what we do for military heroes who  sacrificed their lives for our country and never came home for a proper burial. As a writer, I can contribute, and this is what I am doing.

Q. Aren’t you afraid that someone will steal your blog material for a book?
A. No. I have been in this business for a long time, and my material is protected by copyright law. I take no donations, nor do I sell anything on my site. But as a professional journalist, I am very hardcore when it comes to plagiarism – especially involving a book on this subject. Most people would not think of infringing, but unfortunately I have met a couple of people, who I won’t name,  in the MIA community that have serious fraudulent pasts, and nothing they might do would surprise me. I am prepared.  However, I do not mind sharing my blogs and photos with credit — the idea is to bring more people into the fold.  I try to be accurate but generally don’t update each blog — use at your own risk.

Q. When is your book expected to be published?
A. I have no idea – the case takes priority, as does my blog.

Q. What bothers you most since working on Jerry’s case?
A. Disingenuous people who try to benefit by preying on others’ emotions, especially our veterans — I stay away from those people.  Sadly, Facebook and other social media have given a forum to unvetted people who spend time denigrating people for sympathy and gain. I’ve tried to interface with good people and approach bringing Jerry home as a solid, ethical journey.  I have lived a very good life, and I credit Jerry and Ron for inspiring me to become a writer. Using this skill has allowed me to give back.

Q. Is the case nearing the end?
A. I believe that the field portion is certainly near the end, but if remains are found, then it’s up to the folks in JPACs lab to determine if they belong to Jerry and/or Al. And, there is no guarantee that either guy’s remains will be found. But I do not know when and/or if JPAC will return to Jerry’s and Al’s site.