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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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Posts Tagged ‘Sgt Maj Anthony Spadaro’

2017: VIETNAM WAR MIA FAMILIES POWER ONWARD

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.

: NOTE: LINK TO THE UPCOMING 48TH LEAGUE MEETING AND THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE MISSION TO BRING HOME OUR VIETNAM WAR MIAs

 

 

DPAA REGIONAL MIA FAMILY MEETING 

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.   

WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO

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.

REFLECTING ON THE HOLIDAYS

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. 

BACK TO THE FUTURE

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. 

YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT IS IMPORTANT

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.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

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

Saturday, October 6, 2012 @ 09:10 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

 

 

 

 

 

POST-FORAY STORY:  www.bringingjerryhome.com/2013/02/marine-f4-phantom-foray-dj-vu/

The Marine F-4 Phantom Foray is coming to San Diego, CA, 1-4 November 2012, and the number of attendees is building as word gets out among veterans who flew this tremendously beloved supersonic jet.  The Marines of VMFA-314 (Black Knights) received the Corps’ first F-4Bs in June 1962, at MCAS El Toro, which was adjacent to Mission Viejo and sadly now closed.

But the event will be held at the Town & Country Hotel, conveniently located off Interstate 8 in Mission Valley, a short distance from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD), about 15-20 minutes from MCAS Miramar  in the northern portion of the city and 30-40 minutes from Camp Pendleton in North County.  The Marines rule in this part of the country, so East and West Coast Marine F-4 pilots and crew will be right at home in San Diego.

Reunions are infamous for reviving – often in a spectacular way — events of historical or meaningful significance, even though the redundancy may last just a few days.  For hundreds of Marine jet pilots, the upcoming F-4 Foray is expected to place a bunch of jet jocks back in the seat – metaphorically speaking –of the aircraft that was as tough to earn the right to fly as it was to perform life or death missions in the Vietnam War and elsewhere.   If it is true that the last fighter pilot has already been born, then the Marines attending this reunion should feel proud that as former F-4  pilots and RIOs, they  are part of another very special brotherhood.

REUNION HIGHLIGHTS

The F-4 Foray will draw hundreds of former Marine pilots, RIOs, crew chiefs, mechanics, reps, families and special guests, most of whom were involved with F-4s over the years.  There will be Ready Rooms spread throughout the hotel for maximum hospitality and several outside tours to Marine-related locations.  (Visit www.afr-reg.com/F4Foray for more information).  The highlight of the three-day event is expected to be the Saturday night banquet dinner in the hotel when Commandant of the Marine Corps General James Amos speaks to his Marines, as in “once a Marine, always a Marine.”  The Commandant flew F-4s early-on in his career and is the first pilot in history to serve in his current position as Commandant.  Well liked by all who know him and respected by those who only know of him – yours truly included, the Saturday evening dinner is certain to be a big deal.

Also speaking at the banquet will be special guest John Capellupo, past President of McDonnell Aircraft, builder of 5,057 F-4 Phantom IIs, for the Navy, Air Force and Marines. Production of F-4s ended in the United States in 1979, moving to Japan’s Mitsubishi, which built 138 Phantoms with the last one off the assembly line in 1981.  Although no longer in production, the Phantom is still used in several countries worldwide, and nowadays the U.S. military uses it as a target drone.  Also, according to organizers of the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Vietnam War, the Marine Corps had more F4 Phantom squadrons – 25 to be exact – in service throughout the world during the Vietnam War than any other single type aircraft squadron before or since Vietnam – a stunning number, since Marine Corps aviation just marked its 100th Anniversary this year.   Another interesting hallmark is that the F4 was the only demonstration aircraft used concurrently by both the Navy/Marine Blue Angels (1969-74) and the Air Force Thunderbirds.

LIFE AS AN F-4 PHANTOM WIFE — BRIEFLY

The F-4 will always have a special place in my heart, since my first husband, Capt Jerry Zimmer, worked harder than words can explain to get selected to fly F-4s and was killed flying one in Vietnam.  So competitive was the Marine Corps flight school program that the number of slots for jets – never mind F-4s – in each graduating class during Jerry’s era (’67-’68) was sometimes non-existent or limited to one or two slots — timing truly was a big deal.   A number of Marines transitioning from helicopters, infantry or another MOS, went through an Air Force exchange program and some had an opportunity to get into F-4s through that channel — it is my understanding that the Air Force had more F-4s than the Navy or the Marine Corps.  My friend, retired Marine Col Jack Gagen, went through the Marine flight program but served his first Vietnam tour with the Air Force in F-4s and his second  with the Marines in VMFA-542, later going on to command F-4 squadrons at MCAS El Toro and MCAS Yuma, AZ. Read more