Thousands who sleep at Arlington today were brought there by the Civil War, a national trauma so unexpected and so extensive that, five years after Appomattox, recovery teams were still combing old battlefields around Washington to find, identify, and reinter thousands of casualties from both sides. Learning from the mistakes of that war, the United States created a national cemetery system, with Arlington at its heart, and slowly developed expertise in treating its war dead with exquisite care. That tradition continues, as the United States dispatches specialty teams around the world to recover its dead from active theaters of conflict, as well as those from earlier wars.
It was such an effort that finally brought the members of Breaker Patrol, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, to Arlington for a long- delayed homecoming on May 10, 2005— exactly thirty-eight years after they disappeared in Vietnam: They were Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Malcolm T. Miller, Marine 2nd Lt. Heinz Ahlmeyer Jr., Marine Sgt. James N. Tycz, and Marine Lance Cpl. Samuel A. Sharp Jr. All had died in a fierce fight for the high ground near Khe Sanh on May 10, 1967. While their wounded comrades were evacuated by he li cop ter, it was too late for Miller, Ahlmeyer, Tycz, and Sharp— left behind but not forgotten.