News: Wounded veteran shares stories of resilience
Story by Sgt. Cody Harding
BASRA, Iraq – When Dave Roever was in the Navy during the Vietnam War, ‘resiliency’ and ‘comprehensive soldier fitness’ took a backseat to combat operations. In the summer of 1969, there was little in the way of stress clinics, resiliency centers or mental health treatment for soldiers.
So when a white phosphorus grenade left Roever with severe burns and a slim chance to live, he found himself relying on his family, his faith and his friends to get him through the hardships of recovery.
“The fact is we have the right ingredients to sustain us in times of great difficulty,” said Roever, a Fort Worth, Texas, native. “If we’re not resilient, we lose.”
He is 63-years-old, has been married for over 40 years, and still participates in speaking engagements around the world, providing support for service members through his story and donations to charity. As he says in his speeches, “I’m not over the hill. I am the hill.”
Dave Roever and his son Matthew began a tour of United States Division–South with a presentation at the USD-S Resiliency Campus Sept. 29, followed by a prayer breakfast and a visit to the RIVRON Navy river patrol unit, Sept. 30.The visit is not the first time he’s visited the 1st Infantry Division, having spoken at Fort Riley and to deployed 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div. troops in southern Baghdad in 2007.
His speeches incorporate the Five Pillars of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, a new program by the military to ensure readiness by improving soldiers’ abilities to react to hardship. The Five Pillars represent how physical fitness, emotional balance, family ties, spiritual dedication and social interaction sustain troops through combat and personal turmoil.
Roever said resiliency plays an important part in the drawdown of forces in Iraq by letting soldiers return home with fewer issues than service members who didn’t have the tools of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness.
“It’s really important for these [soldiers] that are here and may be pulling out soon that they understand you got to bounce back,” Roever said. “You cannot carry that burden all of your life. Leave it here. Don’t take it home with you.”
“I can’t imagine having a better speaker come to speak about resiliency and wellness other than Dave Roever,” said Maj. Gary Fisher, the 1st Inf. Div. deputy chaplain and an Abilene, Kan. “He’s just fantastic.”
“He can relate, he’s authentic,” said Spc. Jared Cooper, a chaplain’s assistant with the 1st Inf. Div. “Unlike a mental health counselor, they may not have the authenticism like he has; they may not have been through some of the stuff he has. So I know a lot of people like someone who can be down at their level.”
Roever ended his tour of Basra with a visit to the Navy river patrol unit, the RIVRON, at the Basra chapel. The RIVRON unit is the closest unit to the “Brown Water Black Berets” Roever served with in Vietnam.
Lt. Jeffrey Bensen, the chaplain for RIVRON Team One, said Roever’s speech helps sailors in his unit get a look into the past as well as advice on the resiliency challenges of the future.
Roever said even though he works hard, he enjoys speaking with the soldiers and being told children he spoke with decades ago remember him as they serve in the military.
“To see them now, serving their country and for them to see me still going, the reality is in its lasting permanence,” Roever said. “I can say, ‘I’ll be there when you need me.’
Well, we are here, and they do need people like us, doing what we’re doing, and its fun to see the look in their eyes when they say, ‘Man, that was 35 years ago.’”