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U.S. Army Special Forces
"The Green Berets"

Army Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler
Author - Ballad of the Green Beret

Soldier, Songwriter, Author, Hell-raiser

The following bio was provided by Thor Sadler, oldest son of Barry Sadler, and is reprinted here with only minor editing.

Pertinent Facts:

Staff Sergeant (SSG) Barry Allen Sadler
Born: November 1, 1940, Carlsbad, NM
Died: November 1989
Spouse: Lavona Ruth Edelman
Children: Thor Sadler, 32 (CPT, USA); Baron Sadler, 29 (SSG, USA); Brooke Sadler, 21 (E3, USN) I still like to know why she joined the Navy.

Joined the USAF in 1957 as a Air Traffic Controller. Tired of the Air Force and got out to work in orchards and bars. When he realized he was getting three squares from the Air Force he decided to reenlist. The Air Force recruiter was out and the Army recruiter was in. So hunger drove my Father into the Army. In those days, welfare of any kind was frowned upon. A lesson freeloaders today can learn from.

He entered airborne training for the extra money it offered. Back then airborne school wasn't some kind of ticket puncher. Unless you think three weeks of zero week is easy, then additional three weeks of actual training. During POW and Escape & Evasion training, Dad was locked into a hotbox for a few days while all his peers got the shit beat out of them. The hotbox was a small enclosed container that got very hot during the days and very cold at nights. It's not nearly as bad as some Motel 6's I have stayed in. ;-)

When the instructors decided to let my Dad out, Dad barked, "Shut that damn door and leave me here!" The confused instructors looked at each other and said this guy oughta go to Special Forces. This was the first time Dad heard of the Green Berets. So on to the Q Course, and his specialty was a medic (18D) and weapons specialist (18B).

After he earned the coveted beret, he went to Africa, Israel, Europe, and finally to South East Asia. During the early parts of Vietnam he was know as a "floater". If a medic in a A-Team was injured or killed, Dad would fill that slot until a full-time replacement came in. This still doesn't make sense to me, perhaps I misunderstood him. In 1967, he landed in a punji stick pit. It messed his leg up really bad. The doctors considered removing his leg at one point but decided to leave it be and keep it clean. To the day he died, Dad's leg would bother him.

Anyway while Dad was resting at Da Nang (I think), he would entertain the other wounded and himself by playing his self-taught guitar. Him and other GI's would work the words together that would later become know as "The Ballad of the Green Berets."

On a particular day a news crew entered the hospital to film America's children dying and suffering in a foreign land, just in time for the 5 o'clock news and dinner time. Nice guys. Well, someone suggested that Dad play that song they were working on. And so he played and sang Ballad of the Green Berets for the first time to the American audience.

The reaction was stunning. People were calling all across the nation wanting that song. RCA execs said let's see if we can sign his guy to cut an album. So I imagine through the Army they got a hold of Dad. And the Army now had a poster child for the Vietnam War. Dad cut the album, did the USO tour thing. Got pissed 'cause he wasn't doing what he was trained for, and left the service.

For the record, Robin Moore wrote the last stanza with Dad, about "putting silver wings on my son's chest." And Dad did pin those wings on me in 1986. The proudest day of my life!

After Vietnam

Dad donated money from the record to the families surviving their fallen GI's and I believe Dad paid for part of that statue in front of the JFK Museum. He opened a bar that went bust and we lived in Tucson, AZ for a while before moving to Nashville, TN in 1972. There, Dad got back into the music industry with some unfortunate remakes and other less-than-successful ventures. He went on the road for a while doing shows or guest speaking at events.

During the mid 70's Dad killed a jerk who was threatening him and his girlfriend at the time. After Dad stomped him in a bar in Nashville, the guy publicly stated he'll kill my father. Dad retorted, "You're not the first to try, and you won't be the last." A few weeks later, at night under a street light, the guy pulls up in his van next to Dad. Dad saw the sparkle of shining metal in his hands, Dad then popped a cap on the guy nailing him right between the eyes. Not bad for a night hit. Anyway, when Dad checked the corpse, the jerk was unarmed. The scumbag flashed his keys and my father mistook it for a gun. The dumb ass shouldn't make threats lightly.

Dad called the cops and later pleaded guilty to Second Degree Manslaughter. The judge took everything into consideration and Dad spent 30 days in a half-way house. I guess that corpse was a real value to the community. Needless to say the whole affair was less than ideal for my mother. They asked if us kids would rather move due to all the publicity and the hazing we could get from school. He told them we'll stay and face our enemies.

When I was confronted by a wet-nose punk, who called my father a murderer, I remarked, "Look asshole. Like father, like son." A public statement like that usually had a chilling effect on the masses. Occasionally, Baron and I got into scraps but mostly for wanting a fight and not over Dad or anything serious.

The Casca Series

In 1983, Dad had his fill of the American Dream and decided to leave the country. By this time, Dad had established himself as a published writer, much to his own surprise. For years my mother has been telling him that he had a brilliant imagination and he ought to write. He had several series going, but he his staple crop was the Casca series. A story about a Roman Soldier who at the time of Christ's crucifixion pierced the Lord's side with his spear. Christ then condemns the Roman to live until the second coming. So in each book Dad chooses an epic in History and places Casca in the middle of it. It's great men's adventure.

Sadler in Central America

But now why would Barry Sadler go to Central America? Well at that time the Contra were fighting the Nicaraguans and Dad needed a vacation. So he volunteered his services to train and sell weapons and medical supplies, while joining the ARDE faction (Eden Pastora, aka Commander Zero) in their little romp with the communists.

Those were the goods days. I would come down for my summer visits from college and learn something more important. Such as what a great Dad I had. It was the closest we ever came to knowing each other and having fun. Like he said, when we (Baron and I) were young, we weren't interesting enough to bother. He had always a unique way of looking at things.

When the war in Central America cooled down, Dad settled his operations in Guatemala City. There he rented a ranch house in the mountains, with a family that tended the small farm, cleaned house, prepared food, and protected the property for $200/month. Dad sure knew how to live.

While Dad lived in Guatemala, he was always hustling to sell helicopters to the military as well as MASH equipment. He also had a warehouse full of weapons, some dating prior to World War I! Now the following is speculation: Drug lords started to ease their way into the Guatemala from South America as it made a good staging base prior to shipment of drugs through Mexico or Florida.

A "friend" of Dad's, I believe, got caught up with this bunch who wanted the guns. When this friend proposed this "deal" Dad got pissed. And properly told this guy to pound sand as well other things. Now this guy WAS a personal friend of mine as well. He was a drunkard and a mean-spirited, cold-hearted SOB. I think he planned the hit on my father that night.

This is what happened, Dad got into the front seat of a cab with his girlfriend in the backseat to go home. Dad had been drinking. As the cab made it's way through the winding roads up the mountain, Dad noted a man standing on the corner with a rifle. Dad (who is right handed) grabbed his Beretta in his left hand and leaned back towards the cab driver.

The first shot was from the gunman that struck Dad in the upper right temple and exited the back of his head. I believe Dad fired a round that went through the roof of the cab. All the cab driver noticed was Dad had a gun in the left hand, a gun shot in the car, and Dad slumped in his lap. This is where the suicide story plays in. But if you look at it, it doesn't add up.

Anyway, cab driver did something remarkable - he drove Dad to the Roosevelt hospital. If you are wondering what's so remarkable about that, it is because in Guatemala if their was a crime or suspicious death everyone is arrested. In fact, that old man spent almost a year in a Latin American jail until his family could bribe him out. The cab driver has driven my father home many a night, and my father had shown kindness to his family, if it were any other cab driver, Dad's body would have been dumped on the side of the road. The girl took off, of course.

I won't go into details after the shooting, other than say, I went to Guatemala as soon as I could to pull the life support but just as I was flying down, Bob Brown, editor of Soldier of Fortune magazine paid for the lifeline LearJet to fly Dad from Guatemala to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville.

Dad's situation was critical. He later stabilized. Then he came out of his coma. He had suffered severe brain-damaged (yeah I know "no sh*t"). He had about 1/3 of his brain tissue destroyed. Until the trach came out and his throat healed he couldn't talk. We communicated by touch and motor reflex. It wasn't until later I could piece everything together what happened and WHO did it. Dad remained bed-ridden until he died nearly a year later. His heart gave out. At age 48 my Dad lived a life of a free man and on his own terms. I love him and it's sad my children will never know what a great man he was. God bless you Dad, see you in the morning.

I know you asked for a quick bio, but once I get started talking about Dad, I like to go on. I'm not a shy person among the brotherhood of warriors. Let me know if I could be of further assistance.

Come friends and gather around. Pass the beer while I tell you a tale of noblemen and kings and such......



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