By Spc. Michael Howard
Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – Vietnam combat veteran Dave Roever's face is marked with the scars of burns he suffered when a sniper shot and detonated a white phosphorus grenade he was about to throw during a battle in southern Vietnam. The scars on Roever's body are thick, but after years of developing his faith in Christ, they are the only scars he still harbors.
The public speaker visited Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Nov. 23. He gave a morning speech at Victory Chapel, hosted a prayer luncheon at the Dining facility, and visited the Combat Aviation Brigade's Unmanned Aerial Systems Company and the 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment. The visit was sponsored by the Multi National Corps – North chaplain office and the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Chaplain (Maj.) Suk Jong Lee.
Across three speeches, all full of inspiration delivered with large doses of humor, Roever spoke to hundreds of deployed service members.
Lee was eager to host Roever's visit in part because of a previous encounter. "I met him before, about two years ago. He was very down to earth," Lee said. "He is able to relate to Soldiers. He has shared a lot of their experiences."
Doctors pronounced Roever dead in 1969 following his injury. After many reconstructive surgeries and years of spiritual growth, Roever's Christian beliefs and military experience influence the message he delivers across America and Iraq each year.
During Roevers recovery, he said he drew his strength from what he called his "triangle of support."
"Family, friends and faith. It's an unbeatable triangle." Roever said.
During his time in the hospital, Roever began to realize that his life was changed forever. At the same time, Roever said he began to realize that "He (God) is going to turn my tragedy into triumph." He decided to "let God be God."
Roever, 61, who now wears an artificial right ear that he said falls off at the most inopportune times and who fails to resemble the man he was when he went to war, balanced his sincere message with a lighthearted tone.
Outlining the sequence of events the day the Brown Water Black Beret sailor suffered his injuries, Roever said he now tells people he got the scars "bobbing for French fries."
That anecdote, along with other one-liners, elicited loud laughter.
Roever's routine seems to be to let fly with a few jokes and follow them by a life lesson centered around God.
Roever spoke of emotionally charged time spent with wounded and dying Soldiers as a prime influence in creating some of his programs.
He told the service members gathered in the chapel of a scene in his life where he once held a dying Soldier in his arms. Like Roever, the Soldier was badly burned, but his burns were fatal.
As Roever held the Soldier in his arms, he told the Soldier he wasn't on a gurney but on America's altar of liberty. "You're a Soldier for freedom," Roever told the dying Soldier. Roever said that as he held him, the Soldier drew his last breath. Before the soldier died, Roever said, "I told him thank you." Among service members who had earlier roared with laughter, there was teary silence.
Roever's gratitude to the troops goes well beyond mere words. Roever created Eagles Summit Ranch, a center for wounded soldiers located in Westcliffe, Colo.
Roever brings the worst of the wounded coming back from the Global War on Terrorism to Eagles Summit and helps them get back on their feet.
The ranch is an accredited college, and classes are free to the wounded warriors.
Roever's visit seemed to impress Lee, who had nothing but good things to say about Roever's visit.
"I really appreciate his approach. He said that he came to thank us, to thank the Soldiers personally. He shared his story and told a few jokes.
"But he made it very clear. He came to thank us in person. I appreciated that he came with that kind of mindset, coming to convey how much people at home are supporting our Soldiers."