MARINE BARRACKS, WASHINGTON -- Gone, but never forgotten. Three Marines and one Navy corpsman on a reconnaissance mission deep in the jungles of Vietnam have finally come home. This homecoming puts a close on the chapter of four lives cut short the night of May 10, 1967.
The families of 2nd Lt. Heinz Ahlmeyer Jr., Sgt. James N. Tycz, Petty Officer 3rd Class Malcolm T. Miller and Lance Cpl. Samuel A. Sharp Jr. can finally put an end to the long wait and wipe away the tears of years gone by.
Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place for America’s honored heroes, was the backdrop to the history-making event that saw hundreds of friends, service members and families pay tribute to the men of Alpha Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, who gave the ultimate sacrifice 38 years ago.
Flags were presented to family members during the interment ceremony. Irene Healea, sister to Ahlmeyer, originally from Pearl River, N.Y.; Phillip Tycz, brother to Tycz, originally from Milwaukee; Sandra Keheley, sister to Miller, originally from Tampa, Fla.; and Nellie Irene Sharp, mother of Sharp, originally from San Jose, Calif., all accepted flags on behalf of their families. Sharp was buried Saturday in San Jose and was honored at the ceremony.
The four men were part of a reconnaissance patrol operating near the Marine Base at Khe Sanh and came under enemy attack in the very early morning hours of May 10, 1967, while occupying a defensive position. The four were killed at the onset of the engagement, but due to hostile fire, their bodies could not be recovered when the rest of the patrol was extracted by helicopter later that morning.
The Marines of the Corps’ “Oldest Post” were entrusted with the ceremonial duty of laying their brothers to rest. The Body Bearers of B Company here, have the duty of burials at ANC.
The 28th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Paul X. Kelley (ret.) escorted the funeral procession as it wound its way from the transfer point at Patterson Circle to the gravesite in Section 60 of ANC.
“It is truly an honor to be here today and be part of this event,” said the former commandant, who was presented one of the flags during the graveside ceremony.
Former commanding officer of 1st Force Reconnaissance Battalion and current Marine Barracks Washington executive officer, Lt. Col. A.J. Copp, said the ceremony was significant because not only did it bring closure to the families and teammates of these heroic service men, but it also demonstrated the resolve of the government in recovering our MIAs.
"I can think of no greater honor than attending this interment, particularly after commanding reconnaissance Marines in combat myself,” Copp said. “With General Kelley’s presence, as well as the former 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion Veterans and friends of the Corps, it truly was a significant event and profound reinforcement of our Corps’ motto—Semper Fidelis.”
Even with the tears shed by fellow Marines who served with the men in the Quang Tri Province of South Vietnam, there is relief—relief that their brothers have returned home.
"We all went over together, we all fought and now they have come home too,” said Art Foss, President of Chapter 3 (Dumfries, Va.), Rolling Thunder. “We’re not going to rest until we all come home.”
Rolling Thunder is an organization that publicizes the issues concerning POWs and MIAs. Members educate the public of the many American prisoners of war that were left behind after all past wars. They help correct the past and protect the future veterans from being left behind should they become prisoners of war or missing in action.