Viet­nam War dealt heavy blow to Coweta

Throw­back • Full hon­ors to one of town's fallen men took decades to be given

Tulsa World - - Datelines - This ar­ti­cle orig­i­nal ap­peared in the May 28 Tulsa World. By Deb­bie Jack­son '67, Coweta killed dur­ing a night am­bush on Jan. 11, 1970. killed by a grenade on 1970. Jan. 17, did some­thing Hi­lary Pittman con­trib­uted to this story. Deb­bie Jack­son 918-581-837

Ed­i­tor’s note:

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,

Spc.

Don­ald

P.

Sloat, 20,

20,

• 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.”

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