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VIETNAM-ERA BALLADEER DIES 14 MONTHS AFTER SHOOTING IN GUATEMALA

SHARE VIETNAM-ERA BALLADEER DIES 14 MONTHS AFTER SHOOTING IN GUATEMALA

Barry Sadler, who co-wrote and sang the hit Vietnam War-era "Ballad of the Green Berets," died 14 months after being shot in Guatemala, where he reportedly was trainng anti-communist Contra fighters.

He was 49.Sadler, who suffered brain damage in the mysterious Sept. 7, 1988, shooting, died Sunday at the Veterans Administration's Alvin C. York Medical Center, hospital spokesman Albert Archie said. A cause of death wasn't given and an autopsy will be performed, he said.

Then-Army Staff Sgt. Sadler helped write the ballad while recuperating from a leg wound he suffered while serving as a medic in Vietnam. The song, the No. 1 hit in the country for five weeks in 1966, glorified the fighting men of the Special Forces during the early days of America's involvement in Vietnam.

He went on to write 20 adventure books featuring a mercenary named Casca but never repeated the musical success of the ballad, which sold 9 million singles and albums. His other efforts included producing and writing a bicentennial-year album called "Of Thee I Sing."

"He was a very loyal person with old-fashioned principles," said a friend, Bill Parrish of Nashville. "He was a solider. That was his job. He talked of caring for people and had established a trust fund for orphans in Vietnam."

In recent years, he spent time in Central America.

Sadler was shot in the head as he got into a taxi in what authorities said was apparently a robbery attempt. The crime remains unsolved.

According to one friend, Duke Faglier, Sadler helped with firearms training for the U.S.-backed Contras in their fight to overthrow Nicaragua's leftist government.

After Sadler was shot in Guatemala City, Faglier recounted death threats Sadler had received during five years living in Guatemala.

"I'm sure it made us less than popular," Faglier said of the training, without saying who financed the effort.

Faglier said he shared quarters with Sadler in Central America.

But another friend, Col. Lew Millet of Idyllwild, Calif., discounted Sadler's soldier-of-fortune image. He said his friend went to Central America as a soldier and medic.

Since the shooting, he has been hospitalized in Cleveland or at the VA hospital here named for the World War I hero and Tennessee native known as Sgt. York. Friends recently described Sadler as lucid and able to use one arm, though at times during his hospitalization relatives said he was unable to make legal decisions for himself.

Sadler is survived by his wife, Lavona, and three children.