TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Pat Mearns heard the horrible news after two military officials rang her doorbell.

Her husband, Vietnam fighter pilot Colonel Arthur Mearns, was shot down and was missing in action (MIA).

A report on what happened briefly described one of the last times anyone saw Mearns alive.

“He was seen to descend with a good parachute, but it was not possible to contact him by radio,” the document stated.

It was November 7, 1966.

“Devastation,” Mearns recalled. “My world just exploded.”

As Mearns mouned, she wanted to know what happened to her husband. Was he alive? Was he being tortured as a prisoner of war (POW)?

Her questions went unanswered.

“We were told, military wives were told, not to talk about it,” Mearns said.

Mearns discovered she was not alone in wanting answers and she became more frustrated after realizing no one was looking for POWs and MIAs.

Instead of staying quiet, Mearns and other wives organized and pushed world leaders for answers and results.

Their movement grew and became significant enough to play a role in the Paris Peace Accords, where the end of the war was negotiated.

Mearns said she had to get “stern” when she sensed officials were not listening.

“And I said, ‘Hey, listen to me. These men need some help,'” Mearns recalled telling one official. “You’ve got to get out there and tell the United States what’s happening. I think that some of the politicians actually paid attention.”

Mearns and and the other wives are now the stars of the book Unwavering, written by Taylor Baldwin Kiland and and Judy Sliverstein Gray.

Gray said Mearns and the other wives had no guidelines for how to get answers.

“She’s an MIA wife and there were no rules for coping long after your husband did not return and no remains were found,” Gray said “[Mearns] picked herself up and left her kids with her parents and went to Capitol Hill to walk the halls. And she typed letters to every one of the then 435 members of Congress.”

Mearns said she had no idea she was making history that would impact MIA and POW investigations and lead to a greater effort at accounting for the missing.

“I knew what was right and I knew that many other people were in the same situation I was in,” Mearns said. “This man was part of my life and meant everything in the world to me and I just couldn’t go on without knowing what happened.”

Nearly 1,600 American soldiers who served in Vietnam are still unaccounted for.