U.S. Soldier in Afghanistan Killed by Sniper's Bullet

A sniper's bullet struck Pfc. Christopher Pfeifer, who was fighting in Afghanistan. The 21-year-old made it to an Army hospital in Texas where he died. His family and friends in his hometown of Spalding, Neb., remember him as someone who always finished what he started.

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DEBORAH AMOS, host:

A glance at a map shows the U.S. military is fighting wars on both sides of Iran. One of Iran's borders, you see, there's Iraq. On the other side of the country, you see Afghanistan. And today, the U.S. made more charges that its enemies are getting help from Iran.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

An American general in Afghanistan says his troops intercepted a shipment of sophisticated explosive devices. And General Dan McNeill says he believes Iran's military was involved in shipping those devices.

AMOS: The general's charges come on the same day that we're remembering an American killed after fighting in Afghanistan. A sniper's bullet struck Christopher Pfeifer, and he made it back to the United States before dying in the hospital.

INSKEEP: Pfeifer came from Nebraska where friends and family remember him as someone who always finished what he started.

Julie Becker reports.

JULIE BECKER: Here in Spalding, Nebraska, in the north central part of the state, there are just 550 residents. Chris Pfeifer's parents live in a small home, and friends and family are crowded into it amid several birdcages filled with songbirds.

Last-minute funeral arrangements are being made and the kitchen is overflowing with food from well wishers. The people here are trying to put aside some of the grief of the last six weeks and talk about Chris Pfeifer's short life. His mom, Dar, said he had an infectious laugh.

Ms. DAR PFEIFER (Christopher Pfeifer's Mother): If he was laughing, everybody was laughing. That's just the type of laugh that Chris had, which is - he couldn't laugh and you not join in with him.

BECKER: Chris Pfeifer was a hardworking kid and no job was too big or too nasty, whether it was cleaning out the chicken coop or helping his uncle put up fences. He was only 12 years old when he worked like a field hand from dawn til dusk, to the point of exhaustion. At the end of the day, the uncle call Pfeifer's mom to apologize for working the boy so hard.

Ms. PFEIFER: He said I forget. He's such a big kid. And he said, I forgot he was so young. He said, I never even thought about making him work after all day long. He said, he never said a word.

BECKER: Chris Pfeifer loved to be outdoors. He could catch a string of fish when everyone else came home empty-handed. His platoon leader, Michael DelSardo(ph) is on leave for the funeral, and tells Pfeifer's father about the time he and his son fed the whole platoon.

Mr. MICHAEL DELSARDO (Platoon Leader, U.S. Army): I mean, Afghanistan, we didn't have food. Me and him would kill a goat. He made the rice, and I cooked the goat, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DELSARDO: He knew how to do all that.

Mr. MICHAEL PFEIFER (Christopher Pfeifer's Father): His mother has two pet goats in the backyard. If his mother would've known that he was eating one over there, she would've probably disowned him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BECKER: After the ninth grade, his freshman year at Spalding High School, Pfeifer made a startling decision. He announced he wanted to quit school. His parents insisted he get a high school education, so he came up with the idea of going to Job Corps. His parents reluctantly agreed and he left his home for a program across the state. That's where he met Karen Wellman. The two became inseparable. They finished Job Corps together, came back to Spalding and got married.

When Pfeifer enlisted and was stationed in Germany, his wife went with him. He was deployed to Afghanistan in May and was shot in August. During his long hospitalization in Texas, he and Karen were able to talk about the impending birth of their child. They knew they were going to have a girl and they decided on her name. The baby, Peyton, was born two days after Chris Pfeifer died.

For NPR News, I'm Julie Becker in O'Neill, Nebraska.

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