LUZERNE COUNTY — A Vietnam veteran is returning to Southeast Asia to help find two fellow Marines who are still considered Missing in Action.
Edward Zimmerman of Bear Creek says he saw the bodies of the two as Americans rushed out of a battle more than 45 years ago. Now, he hopes to bring them back home.
Zimmerman began his journey early Thursday morning at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.
He’s joining an American team that specializes in recovering and identifying the remains of missing Americans in past wars.
He’s considered a living witness because he says he saw the bodies of two fellow Marines in 1968 as Americans raced to evacuate at the battle of Khe Sahn.
“They’re going to look for them, that’s the bottom line. I’m grateful. It will end a lot of my nightmares. You have to live with this,” says Zimmerman.
Khe Sahn was one of the longest, bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. Zimmerman earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart there.
In the rush to evacuate in 1968, he says he saw the bodies of two Marines, Private First Class Anthony Pepper and Corporal James Trimble.
He always figured they were both later accounted for until he saw on the Internet the dedication of a memorial for Anthony Pepper, considered MIA.
“When I saw, it was an ‘oh my god’ moment. I said, I remember. I never really told anyone because everyone was accounted for in our outfit,” Zimmerman recalled.
But, as Zimmerman leaves, he says those two Marines were in another unit. They were never found. He thinks he can direct a specialized recovery crew right to the spot he saw them.
“You can’t sleep. I must have gone over that ridgeline 100 times, a million times really,” says Zimmerman. “They’re going to look for them, that’s the bottom line. I’m grateful. It will end a lot of my nightmares. You have to live with this.”
As Zimmerman leaves, his wife worries, but with pride.
“I do have a peace about it,” says Cathy Zimmerman, “but I’m still concerned about it. It’s still a Communist country over there and there are concerns.”
All Zimmerman hopes now is that his return there is successful.
“Find them, bring them back. That’s the goal. There’s nothing other. There can’t be,” says Zimmerman.
Zimmerman goes to Hawaii first, then on to Vietnam. Once there, he just wants to get right to that spot at Khe Sahn where he remembers seeing those two Marines who were lost in 1968.