Pete Rafferty was born and raised in Springfield, Illinois, the son of a coal miner who died at a young age. In 1963 he achieved his childhood dream by enlisting in the Marines. Following his training he was assigned to the 1st Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division. By July, 1965 the unit deployed to South Vietnam, where Rafferty served as a communications and radio operator during numerous combat patrols. He contracted a severe case of malaria late that year and was medevaced home.