Pfeiffer pens memoir of time in ’Nam
A Red Oak man who served in Vietnam from September 1967 to September 1968 has written a memoir about his war experiences called “Tour 365: A Viet Nam Memoir.”
Stan Pfeiffer was 18 years old and “bored” when he decided to enlist in the Army Airborne. He had just read the book, “The Green Beret” and was inspired by the wild and exciting missions they were going on.
“I thought it sounded like fun, so I went to the Army recruiter in Council Bluffs and told him I wanted to join the Army; I wanted to be guaranteed airborne,” Pfeiffer recalled.
Advanced training was completed at Fort Ord, Calif., where his specialty was anti tank. He had the opportunity to attend officer’s candidate school, but he wanted airborne. However, once he completed airborne training at Fort Benning, Ga., he returned to Fort Bragg, N.C., and then the Vietnam troop surge of 1967 occurred.
“I was just a crazy kid wanting an adventure and I sure got one, big time.”
By 19, he was dodging gunfire in the jungles of Southeast Asia; spending his 20th birthday in the field eating C-rations.
“The old men start the wars and the young men have to fight them,” Pfeiffer said. “It was a wild ride. When you reflect on the good times, they were great, but when you reflect on the bad times, they were bad.”
Pfeiffer said he had thought about writing a book about his experiences in Vietnam throughout the years, but never took any action on it. It wasn’t until his counselor at Veterans Affairs recommended he write down the traumatic experiences he encountered that he put pen to paper as a form of therapy.
“I had a lot of traumatic experiences to choose from, but I took an incident where we accidently shot a little girl. Then, Charlie Company had a really bad mortar attack; I was in A Company, but we had to go in and pick up the pieces and get them out while they were still shooting at us.”
Pfeiffer said writing has helped him come to terms with what he encountered 50 years ago. He continued to say once he got started, he was obsessed. It took Pfeiffer eight years to write the memoirs along with countless edits
“I would work on it every chance I got. I started with just an incident at a time and the more I wrote, the more I remembered. I’d sit down with a legal pad and a pencil and just let it come out.”
He said writing about the men he served with, especially those that never came home, was a way to bring them back to life – if only for a short time.
“Hopefully they get a little bit of the respect they deserve and should have gotten,” he said. “We were treated like dirty dogs. Not everybody is going to like the book because it is rough and raw and I’m not kind to the military. The whole thing was corrupt. There was a lot of frustration over the years I was carrying around. We were just cogs in the works … there is a reason they send 19 year olds to war.”
The following is an exert from Chapter 9, The Monastery.
“Examining his map, the Captain announces: “There is a monastery around here.” It doesn’t take long to find Peering through the tres on the south slope of the hill, there it is. Wow! Who would expect to find this: a large rectangular building three stories high, about 150 feet long by 50 feet wide and made of brick? It is nicely constructed, fitted with windows, and could belong on any college campus. A long, narrow structure with open sides and a metal roof that appears to be storage for agricultural equipment lays just to the south. Also, a few utility buildings dot the grounds.”
We meander down the hill, not sure what to expect. Individuals are spotted moving like shadows amongst the landscape and in front of the portico. The men are Vietnamese, appear to be unarmed, and are dressed in cassocks: black robe like garments that hang down ankle length with an overabundance of buttons up the front and commonly worn by Catholic priests.
My squad is with the Captain as we survey the situation, our weapons at the ready. Approaching the front of the building and the covered porch, you can feel the tension as we stare at the men in the black robes and they stare back. One man, a Caucasian, stands in the doorway dressed in clerical attire with black pants, black shirt and a Roman collar. He greets our Captain and, as they converse, you can detect a heavy French accent. The Monastery is a remnant of Vietnam’s French Colonial Era carrying on despite a war raging around it, first with the French and now with the Americans.
I squat down with the other squad members cradling my rifle as we face-alternating ways providing security for the Captain and the CP. This whole situation has a bad feel to it; these Vietnamese have buzz haircuts and a hardened look. You can tell they are scrutinizing us carefully. Looking over at one of them, I see green fatigue pants peeking out below the hemline of his robe.
“Captain, that guy has on fatigues under his robe,” Looking around at the rest of them I add, “They all do!”
The Captain asks the French priest about the fatigues and he responds by saying that it is only some clothing given to them by the South Vietnamese Army. He’s lying.”
When Pfeiffer’s time in the military was up, there was no way he was going to reenlist for additional years.
“I had had enough.”
In January 1968 Pfeiffer was honorably discharged from the Army and by September he was married with a baby on the way. He said he believes he married quickly after the war because he was looking for stability and normalcy. While his children were growing up, he said he didn’t talk much about his time in the military. However, his five children have read and even helped edit the book.
“There is relief in getting it out of my head,” he said. “Most of the guys from the book are dead, not necessarily from the war but natural causes or accidents. I’ve been lucky my whole life and I hope it keeps going.”
Pfeiffer is looking at getting the book published.