Keeping the Promise by Donna E. Elliott | Books in Review

Former military photojournalist Donna E. Elliott does an effective job of telling the story of—and paying tribute to—her brother Jerry Elliott, who is still listed as Missing in Action in the Vietnam War, in Keeping the Promise: The Story of MIA Jerry Elliott, a Family Shattered by His Disappearance, and His Sister’s 40-Year Search for the Truth (Hellgate Press, 320 pp., $21.95, paper). As the subtitle notes, the book also includes a first-person account of Donna Elliott’s quest to get a full accounting of her brother’s fate.

Jerry Elliott joined the Army in July of 1966, forgoing his senior year in high school to do so. After Basic at Fort Polk and Infantry AIT at Fort Gordon, he volunteered for the Airborne and took jump training at Fort Benning. He and his fellow 268th Pathfinder Detachment arrived in Vietnam in May of 1967.

On January 21, 1968, Elliott was a door gunner on a 282nd Army Helicopter Company gunship on a mission supporting the Siege at Khe Sanh when he saw the lead helicopter go down. He jumped from his gunner’s seat to try to save the crew and never was heard from again.

Donna Elliott with her son and grandsons

Donna Elliott has dedicated herself to trying to find out what happened to her brother. “January 21, 1968, I would never forget this date, ” she writes of the day her family learned that her brother was missing in action. “A knock on the door had changed our lives forever. Even when the Army found Jerry, things would never be the same. We now realized the harsh realities of war could reach out and touch anyone, at any time, in any place. As long as he remained in Vietnam, Jerry would never be safe; we needed him to come back home.”

—Marc Leepson

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