Read This Book: Rock 'N' Roll Soldier by Dean Ellis Kohler and Susan Vanhenke | Teen Ink

Read This Book: Rock 'N' Roll Soldier by Dean Ellis Kohler and Susan Vanhenke

November 21, 2009
By caitlinrebekah BRONZE, Honolulu, Hawaii
caitlinrebekah BRONZE, Honolulu, Hawaii
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Dean Ellis Kohler has music in his blood. His grandmother played the harmonica, his aunt and all four of his maternal brothers played guitar and sang, and Dean himself was getting paid to play within two years of starting guitar lessons. So, in 1966 when he gets a record deal with Tower Records, Dean is thrilled. It’s what he’s been dreaming about his whole life. There’s just one problem. He’s just been drafted into the Vietnam War.

Dean has no choice but to turn down the offer from Tower Records, pack his bags and go to basic training, leaving behind his guitar, his girlfriend, his family, and his innocence. Within a year he finds himself in Qui Nhon, Vietnam with the 127th Military Police Company building a camp from scratch in the sweltering heat, stinging mosquitoes, and unrelenting rain. But the discomfort and hard work almost fades into the background as Dean begans to see the real demon of Vietnam; terrifying, brutal violence. In just the first three days of his tour, Dean is shot at, nearly ambushed, and sees another soldier just like himself get his head blown off. In a place like this, a man can easily lose himself.

As Dean struggles to adjust to his new surroundings, his commanding officer comes up with a crazy idea; he asks Dean to start a band. Dean has no instruments, no practice space, and even if he did, why would they advertise their location to their enemy by playing loud rock and roll? But Captain Leadbetter is not a man to disobey and Dean knows his “request” is more of an order. Somehow, someway, Dean must find a way to put together a rock band in the heart of the Vietnam War.

This is the remarkable true story of how one man survived the Vietnam War with his soul intact due to his unswerving devotion to music and friendship. This story will make you cry, but ultimately, the best human qualities, joy, passion, and creativity triumph over the terrible destruction of war. This is a must read.

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