Brian Pfeiler was born and raised in the land of dreams, Dyersville, IA, where the iconic baseball movie was filmed. After the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001, Brian joined the Iowa National Guard in June 2003. He completed basic and advanced infantry training in 2004 at Fort Benning, GA. After training he was assigned to Company D, 1-133rd Infantry Battalion, 34th Infantry Division in Dubuque, Iowa. There he served in several different roles for 8 ½ years, and was medically retired in February 2012.
As a part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team 34th Infantry Division, Brian was mobilized for a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in October 2005, just a few short weeks after marrying his wife, Katie. His unit trained for six months at Camp Shelby, MS before movement through Kuwait and ultimately to Al Asad, Iraq where they performed convoy security missions to maintain the supply chain for the Western half of Iraq. Brian spent much of his time in an up-armored humvee as part of a convoy, consisting of around 3 dozen military vehicles and 150 locally owned semis that stretched for miles along the desert highways. When the troop surge was announced in Iraq, this extended his year in Iraq to 16 months and total time away from home to 22 months.
Like countless other service members of this time, the next deployment eventually came. In August, 2010, Brian was mobilized as part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Again, his unit trained at Camp Shelby, MS although for much less time, and they were in Afghanistan by Thanksgiving. With each other to be thankful for, they patrolled their area of Afghanistan to build relationships with surrounding villages.
On January 6, 2011 while on patrol, Brian stepped on an explosive device and lost his right foot. After being evacuated from Afghanistan, through Germany back to the United States, Brian was treated in San Antonio, TX at Ft. Sam Houston. There he underwent several surgeries before being discharged from the hospital to begin rehabilitation. He was fitted for his first prosthetic leg in late March, 2011 and he has had many different variations since.
As Brian shared “Life after deployments has been difficult. I don’t fit right back in where I left. My friends and family are the same, but I am so much different.” He has seen things that can’t be unseen, and at times has had his faith shaken to the core. Brian believes that no one comes home unaffected. Knowing that there are veterans who survived worse injuries than he has generated apprehension towards accolades, and caused Brian to make light of what he’s been through. He feels there should also be greater mental health resources for his wife, who has gone through the worst times with him. Families need just as much support as the veterans themselves, but resources are much more difficult to find. Brian doesn’t believe these issues are unique to him, and though every circumstance is different, he has found the local American Legion to be an invaluable resource to connect with other veterans in his community. In his words “Connecting with other veterans has been some of the best therapy I have taken part in.”
Brian’s dream is for veteran and family issues to become community issues, so no one suffers in silence. At Field of BIG Dreams, we want to be part of the solution by bringing greater resources to support heroes like Brian, and to so many others who’ve proudly served our country.