Watch Fire commemorates National Recognition Day

First Posted: 9/22/2014

Vietnam veteran Ed Zimmerman says the U.S. Marine motto of “no one left behind” is more than just a motto; it is a promise.

A lance corporal, Zimmerman was awarded a Bronze Star for saving the life of a fellow Marine and a Purple Heart for suffering a wound while in action. In June of this year, he joined with JPAC (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command) search team for the purpose of searching and recovery of the remains of Pfc. Anthony John Pepper, of Richmond, VA and Cpl. James Mitchell Trimblem of Eureka, CA. The two servicemen had been killed at Khe Sanh in 1968 during a 77-day siege.

The search for the remains of the two men who were on the “no further recovery list” was successful. Zimmerman pointed out that the “no further recovery list” is a list of service persons for whom the government has stopped looking due to having no location and not enough information. Zimmerman became interested in finding the remains of the missing servicemen eight years ago. He knew it would be a struggle to gain approval for the mission, as well as a very difficult task to conduct the operation itself.

“It was through the grace of God that we got approval to conduct the search,” he said, adding that the search often took place in 100-degree weather. “The long and short of it, it was worth the pain.”

He also described the interaction with the head administrator for the recovery of NVA (North Vietnamese Army) persons and civilians.

“There are more than 200,000 Vietnamese MIAs,” Zimmerman stated. “At first, when he (the administrator) said that his organization wanted to help JPAC, I was skeptical. We sat and broke bread together and started talking about our grandchildren. I realized that they were just like us. After the meal, the administrator announced, ‘We were all soldiers. The war is over. Let’s stop our differences and find our boys.’”

Zimmerman, of Bear Creek, said that JPAC is often criticized, but people do not understand the effort and processes required to go into the jungles of a communist-controlled country such as Vietnam and search for remains that have been lost for 46 years. Forensic scientists, medical personne, and geologists are involved in the multi-step search and recovery. Referring to JPAC, Zimmerman said, “They are great people. The criticism is unwarranted.”

Zimmerman was the guest speaker at the National POW/MIA Recognition Day at the Back Mountain Harvest Assembly Church in Trucksville on Sept 19.

The second annual event was organized by “Remembering our Veterans,” a group based out of the BMHA Church. A watch fire was lit at 5:30 p.m. followed by the ceremony at The watch fire was active for 24 hours to spiritually guide those serving in active military duty back home, as well as to honor all of the POW/MIA from the United States wars and battles.

Lehman resident John Tasco, who served as a Marine in Vietnam for 18 months, said that National Recognition Day calls attention to the POW/MIAs who are often overlooked.

“My awareness has increased in the past few years,” said Dave Cuba, of Dallas, who served with the Navy in the Persian Gulf War. “A lot of people are not aware of the numbers of MIA/POWs. They assume that the POWs have died.

“The Vietnam era brought most of the attention (to the MIA/POWs),” Cuba continued. “The National League of Families Flag-The POW Flag came into existence in the 70s.”

According to DPMO (Defense Prisoner of War-Missing Personnel Office), more than 83,000 Americans are missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War.

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