Jefferson County Platoon reunites 50 years after basic training

LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- Two dozen veterans reunited Saturday to remember the 50th anniversary of when they enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

The men were all part of the 45 soldiers in the Jefferson County Platoon, the largest group to enlist at the same time in Colorado history.

"I’m humbled by their service," said Joe Sleevi, the former platoon sergeant who helped organize the reunion. "Each one of them has a story of their own courage, sacrifice and service."

Sleevi and his comrade, Don Emmot wanted to honor that when they started organizing the reunion for the veterans a few years ago.

"It’s been a labor of love trying to track everybody down and get them contacted and find out if they could make it," Emmot told FOX31.

A total of 24 of the soldiers in Jefferson Platoon were able to make it back to Lakewood for the reunion. Many hadn't seen each other since they stopped serving.

"Just giving all of these guys a welcome home -- because that was something we never got when we got back from Vietnam -- so that is the one thing that is going to stick with me the most," Emmot said.

"It’s almost a prayer -- if you will -- for those that died in Vietnam," Sleevi told FOX31. "And as a rule, there’s no way for us to express it [with] everyday words, but we can express it by having this ceremony."

That ceremony at the Lakewood Cultural Center included the former soldiers' families, current military members and future ones.

During the ceremony, the city of Lakewood dedicated a special bench to the platoon, with the names of all 45 soldiers engraved in it.

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