Veterans

Jeffco Vietnam vets search for platoon members

Aim to organize 50th anniversary event in June 2018

Posted 6/20/17

Neither Joe Sleevi nor Donald Emmot spoke much about their time in the service during the Vietnam War to their families.

There was the unwelcoming reception they received upon their return, as well as some unhappy memories. But, mainly, they just …

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Veterans

Jeffco Vietnam vets search for platoon members

Aim to organize 50th anniversary event in June 2018

Posted

Neither Joe Sleevi nor Donald Emmot spoke much about their time in the service during the Vietnam War to their families.

There was the unwelcoming reception they received upon their return, as well as some unhappy memories. But, mainly, they just wanted to move on with their lives.

“Some good soldiers came out of the war, and some gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Sleevi, a Lakewood resident, said. “But most soldiers were in between, and that’s where some very heartfelt stories of their experiences remain to be told.”

So, in February, Sleevi began thinking that June 28, 2018, would be the 50th anniversary of when he, Emmot and about 43 others from Jefferson County were sworn in as the Jefferson County Platoon.

“One of my best friends knew Joe from when they worked together, and he connected us,” Emmot, a Bear Valley resident, said. “After basic, all of us went to different places, and no one kept in contact after that, so I haven’t seen any of these guys since then.”

Through word of mouth, social media and the internet, Sleevi and Emmot, who were both platoon sergeants during basic training, have been working to find the other members of their platoon to invite them and their families for a reunion in June 2018.

“My mom saved all kinds of stuff from when I was in the military and I’ve finally been going through that material,” Emmot said. “It was amazing at the time how ashamed people made you feel that you joined the military.”

The Jefferson County Platoon was unique, Sleevi and Emmot explained, because its members were allowed to join in the buddy system, which meant they would stay together all the way through basic training in Fort Bliss, Texas.

“We had kids from pretty much every high school in Jeffco,” said Sleevi, who had graduated from Alameda High School before enlisting. “There was a big celebration when we took our oath of enlistment at the Westland Center, including a congressman.”

Both men having been trying to collect the names of all their fellow platoon members, which is proving difficult without any records or idea of what happened to them during and after the war.

“This was all in 1968, so many of us went right to Vietnam after basic and advanced individual training,” Sleevi said. “We don’t know much about what happened to the guys when they went there, but I think most spent at least a year in Vietnam.”

During his time in Vietnam, Emmot, who graduated from Wheat Ridge High School, was a combat engineer who did mine sweeping on roads and explosive ordnance removal, and then became an instructor at the Combat Leadership school in Cu Chi, Vietnam. He was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, after returning from the war. After he left the service, he worked for phone companies, and recently retired from Xcel Energy.

Sleevi served as a member of a forward observer party with an infantry unit while he was Vietnam. After he left the service, he was a firefighter and retired from West Metro Fire and Rescue.

As part of the planning for the reunion, Sleevi and Emmot reached out to local organizations and legislators like Congressman Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat in Colorado’s 7th District, for any help they can provide.

“I look forward to do what I can to help Joe and the members of the Jefferson County Platoon reconnect,” Perlmutter wrote in an email interview. “As I’ve seen from hosting several Vietnam 50th Commemoration Ceremonies, it means so much for veterans with shared experiences to meet and reconnect after all these years — they finally feel welcome home.”

So far, the duo has made contact with about a dozen members of the platoon, and is working on fundraising efforts to pay for the event, as well as help pay for travel expenses for any members who live out of state.

“The more stuff I found rummaging through old boxes looking for clues about these guys, the more memories started coming back,” Emmot said. “I just started telling stories about my time in the service for the first time.”Neither Joe Sleevi nor Donald Emmot spoke much about their time in the service during the Vietnam War to their families.

There was the unwelcoming reception they received upon their return, as well as some unhappy memories. But, mainly, they just wanted to move on with their lives.

“Some good soldiers came out of the war, and some gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Sleevi, a Lakewood resident, said. “But most soldiers were in between, and that’s where some very heartfelt stories of their experiences remain to be told.”

So, in February, Sleevi began thinking that June 28, 2018, would be the 50th anniversary of when he, Emmot and about 43 others from Jefferson County were sworn in as the Jefferson County Platoon.

“One of my best friends knew Joe from when they worked together, and he connected us,” Emmot, a Bear Valley resident, said. “After basic, all of us went to different places, and no one kept in contact after that, so I haven’t seen any of these guys since then.”

Through word of mouth, social media and the internet, Sleevi and Emmot, who were both platoon sergeants during basic training, have been working to find the other members of their platoon to invite them and their families for a reunion in June 2018.

“My mom saved all kinds of stuff from when I was in the military and I’ve finally been going through that material,” Emmot said. “It was amazing at the time how ashamed people made you feel that you joined the military.”

The Jefferson County Platoon was unique, Sleevi and Emmot explained, because its members were allowed to join in the buddy system, which meant they would stay together all the way through basic training in Fort Bliss, Texas.

“We had kids from pretty much every high school in Jeffco,” said Sleevi, who had graduated from Alameda High School before enlisting. “There was a big celebration when we took our oath of enlistment at the Westland Center, including a congressman.”

Both men having been trying to collect the names of all their fellow platoon members, which is proving difficult without any records or idea of what happened to them during and after the war.

“This was all in 1968, so many of us went right to Vietnam after basic and advanced individual training,” Sleevi said. “We don’t know much about what happened to the guys when they went there, but I think most spent at least a year in Vietnam.”

During his time in Vietnam, Emmot, who graduated from Wheat Ridge High School, was a combat engineer who did mine sweeping on roads and explosive ordnance removal, and then became an instructor at the Combat Leadership school in Cu Chi, Vietnam. He was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, after returning from the war. After he left the service, he worked for phone companies, and recently retired from Xcel Energy.

Sleevi served as a member of a forward observer party with an infantry unit while he was Vietnam. After he left the service, he was a firefighter and retired from West Metro Fire and Rescue.

As part of the planning for the reunion, Sleevi and Emmot reached out to local organizations and legislators like Congressman Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat in Colorado’s 7th District, for any help they can provide.

“I look forward to do what I can to help Joe and the members of the Jefferson County Platoon reconnect,” Perlmutter wrote in an email interview. “As I’ve seen from hosting several Vietnam 50th Commemoration Ceremonies, it means so much for veterans with shared experiences to meet and reconnect after all these years — they finally feel welcome home.”

So far, the duo has made contact with about a dozen members of the platoon, and is working on fundraising efforts to pay for the event, as well as help pay for travel expenses for any members who live out of state.

“The more stuff I found rummaging through old boxes looking for clues about these guys, the more memories started coming back,” Emmot said. “I just started telling stories about my time in the service for the first time.”

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