Vietnam War dealt heavy blow to Coweta
Throwback • Full honors to one of town's fallen men took decades to be given
Evelyn Sloat noticed a U.S. Army vehicle as she returned to her Coweta home from dropping off food at the family home of Edgar R. Pulliam Jr., who had been killed in Vietnam.
She assumed that an Army official was there to discuss arrangements for her son, who was also in Vietnam, to escort Pulliam's body back to Coweta for burial. It was customary for a service member from the same hometown to escort a fallen soldier's remains, and Donald Sloat had been assigned this honor.
Instead, the officer was there to tell her that her own son had been killed six days after Pulliam.
In all, eight men died from the Wagoner County town of 2,500 died in Vietnam.
Of the 37 young men in the Coweta class of 1967, 14 would serve in the military during the Vietnam War, but only 10 would return.
From the class of buried:
• Sgt. Phillip B. Sanders, 20, killed on May 15, 1969, and survived by a 6-month-old daughter, Christy, he never saw.
• Pfc. Edgar R. Pulliam,
• Pfc. Jimmy Lee Campbell, 22, killed by a booby trap on Feb. 11, 1970. He was considered one of the best running backs ever to play for Coweta High School. The others:
• Cpl. Billy K. Carver, 19, killed in action on April 8, 1967. He had been in Vietnam 48 days.
• Spc. Frank E. Faught, 22, killed in an ambush on Jan. 31, 1968. He was remembered as “a good-looking farm boy with a killer smile” who married his high school sweetheart.
• Tech Sgt. Dallas Perryman, 32, killed by rocket fire on Feb. 28, 1968. He wore slick-shined shoes and starched pants to school, preparing himself for the military.
• Cpl. Grover S. Boston, 20, killed in action on May 2, 1968. A draftee, he married a Coweta girl and died six weeks out of basic training.
(In 2009, Coweta dedicated a city park to Jimmy Lee Campbell as a permanent tribute to its Vietnam War dead. Nine names are engraved on a monument there. The ninth is that of Spc. Ruben Wayne Dykes, who died on Sept. 9, 1972, while on medical leave from his second tour.)
Each loss is equally felt by friends, family and community. But one family waited four decades for the truth.
Evelyn Sloat had been told that her son had stepped on a land mine. Then in 2008, a relative saw a different account on a website, and a member of his squad confirmed it.
Mrs. Sloat said in 2010 that she was “bound and determined to get that medal for Don. He was never recognized for what he did.”
She reached out to volunteers — Vietnam veterans who never knew Sloat — who eventually located three eyewitnesses who verified the story.
Sloat was a machine gunner with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade. On Jan. 17, 1970, his squad was in the Que Son Valley when a soldier tripped a booby trap that caused a grenade to roll downhill.
“… Don truly extraordinary,” President Barack Obama said on Sept. 15, 2014, when he awarded Sloat the Medal of Honor.
“He reached down and he picked that grenade up. And he turned to throw it, but there were Americans in front of him and behind him in the kill zone. So Don held onto that grenade, and he pulled it close to his body. And he bent over it. … He saved the lives of those next to him.”
In February, Sloat's family presented his service medals, including the Medal of Honor, to the city of Coweta for display. In April, Coweta's junior high school was renamed Donald P. Sloat Junior High.
Mrs. Sloat died in 2011, but her family saw that her wishes were carried out.
“Once our mother, Evelyn Sloat, learned how her son died, she made it her goal to have him recognized,” said Don Sloat's sister, Karen McCaslin. “The ultimate recognition came when the president of the United States posthumously awarded Donald the Medal of Honor.
“Mom wanted a school named after him, so now that, too, has come to pass.”