Captain Richard A. Leadbetter

Not long after we made camp at Dodge City, Capt. Leadbetter made a special request...

I was sitting on my cot, tipping my boots upside down, giving them a few good whacks.  Spiders, as usual.  Huge, hairy, ugly.  They tumbled to the wood-pallet floor and scuttled off like overweight crabs.  One month in-country and I still wasn't used to the monster bugs here, like mutant insects from another planet.

"Private Kohler, just the man I'm looking for."

Leadbetter.  He grinned and gave me a friendly thump on the back.

"Captain?" I said, standing up and saluting.

"Instruments," he said, returning my salute.  He fished his pipe and lighter from his pocket.  "We gotta find you guys some intruments."

Instruments?  He can't be for real.

"You serious, sir?" I asked him.

"Damn straight, Private," he said, snapping his Zippo shut, a halo of vanilla smoke rising to the tent top.  "The new barracks are going in.  We got the mess up.  The Longbranch Saloon is finished.  What we need now is some music.  What the hell's a bar without a band?  A bar's got to have a band."

"Yes, sir.  Entertainment.  Good idea."

Leadbetter wiped the sweat from his forehead and the back of his thick neck.  "I don't care how you do it or how long it takes.  Can I count on you to make it happen, Kohler?"

A rock band?  In Nam?  Not damn likely.

"Of course, sir," I told him.  "You can count on me."


Rock 'N' Roll Soldier: A Memoir by Dean Ellis Kohler with Susan VanHecke, foreword by Graham Nash  •  © 2016