Farewell Party, December 1966 

The night before we shipped out, Captain Leadbetter threw us a going-away party at the local enlisted club.  Loaded us all onto trucks and shuttled us over.  Right off the bat, I noticed a couple of amplifiers, guitars, and drums set up onstage.  I thought we were going to have some music, so I was jazzed.  We were all eating our farewell chow, laughing too loud, trying to hide how freaked out we were to be heading to Nam the next morning.

Then Leadbetter called me and Ioli and Voina over to his table.  "Head for the stage," he commanded. "You guys are the show.  Get up there and entertain."

We looked at him, at one another, our faces one big question mark.  It was definitely an order  So we climbed onstage.  Ioli's dad was a drummer once, he said, so he took the drums.  Voina played a little guitar; he'd let me borrow his Stratocaster a few times back at Fort Gordon.  He grabbed one of the guitars, I took the other.  I wasn't sure how we were going to pull this off...

That's me on guitar, left, Ioli on drums, and Voina on the other guitar, right.

Rock 'N' Roll Soldier: A Memoir by Dean Ellis Kohler with Susan VanHecke, foreword by Graham Nash  •  © 2024