50 years later, Carnegie Marine receives Purple Heart
It took more than 50 years, but Jim Pfeffer finally received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered in the Vietnam War while serving with the U.S. Marine Corps.
“No regrets, no hard feelings,” Pfeffer, 71, of Carnegie, said during the medal ceremony June 1 at the Carnegie Borough Building. “I have what I have, and I am what I am. And I'll always be a Marine.”
Pfeffer was awarded the medal for being wounded by a North Vietnamese army explosive device during a military operation in August 1967. The retired Marine explained that the hospital corpsman who treated him was later killed in action before he could prepare the paperwork necessary for the decoration.
“I had tried numerous times to get both the Marine Corps and the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) to acknowledge, but there was no written statement from the corpsman … to justify my request for a Purple Heart,” Pfeffer said.
Pfeffer would receive his first Purple Heart for his second injury, which he suffered the following December. Pfeffer served as a lance corporal in Mike Company of the 1st Marine Regiment 3rd Battalion.
In receiving his second medal, Pfeffer collected the witness statements of other hospital corpsmen and pulled records from Veterans Affairs archives. He added that he regularly reunites with veterans he served with each year and frequents his local veterans center.
Capt. Claudio Casanova and 1st Sgt. Jason Polanco presented Pfeffer with his medal, pinning it to his shirt.
“It's one of those issues that slips between the crack, and there's no reason or rhyme for it. It just happens. I'm just glad to be getting it,” Pfeffer said. “And I've never had a formal ceremony.”
Matthew Guerry is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.