The Strange Life of Barry Sadler
Barry Sadler was born in Carlsbad, NM in 1940. He dropped out of school in tenth grade and wandered across the country. He eventually joined the US Air Force at 17 and later joined the Army and became a Green Berets medic in Vietnam, where he was severely wounded. He recovered from a harrowing knee injury that left him near death and suddenly catapulted to instant stardom with the release of his mega-hit #1 single The Ballad of the Green Berets in 1966.
Sadler tried to duplicate his success with other Vietnam-related songs but there were no hits, so he turned to writing a series of books about soldiers. In the late 70s, he shot and killed Lee Emerson, a country songwriter. He pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and ended up serving only 30 days out of a 4-5 year sentence.
Mystery still surrounds Sadler’s death. He moved to Guatamala City in the mid 80s and was allegedly shot in the head one night in a taxi. He languished for months in a coma, and was transferred to a US hospital by friends from Soldier of Fortune Magazine. Later, he was kidnapped and returned while still in the coma. Sadler died after fourteen months in the hospital. It’s still unclear whether his death was a suicide, a botched robbery or a result of his training Nicaraguan contras, which prompted death threats.