Vietnam War vet shares message of survival with Baumholder Soldiers
August 16, 2012
BAUMHOLDER, Germany - Dave Roever walked into Baumholder's Hall of Champions where more than 800 Soldiers were waiting to see him give a presentation about suicide prevention.
As he entered the hall and mingled with some of the officials, Jose Blanco approached Roever, shook his hand and said "welcome home." Both men smiled, exchanged knowing glances and patted each other on the shoulder.
When old friends meet such an exchange of greetings is understandable but these two men had never met before and Baumholder is not Roever's home.
Baumholder is, however regarded as the home of Champions and Roever is a champion. Roever is a Vietnam veteran who was seriously burned by a phosphorous grenade that exploded next to the right side of his head. And because Blanco, who is the director of Baumholder's Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, is also a Vietnam veteran so the display of camaraderie was understood even though they had only met for the first time. So why the greeting "welcome home?"
As Roever began his presentation the meaning of Blanco's greeting became clear. Vietnam veterans never received a welcome home after serving their country. There were no welcome home celebrations, no ticker tape parades, nothing. They were humiliated, degraded, spat upon and called everything from murderers to baby killers. They received no welcome home or thank you for the dangers they had faced and the sacrifices they had made.
Roever told his audience that returning Soldiers were even advised to remove their uniform and put on civilian clothes before leaving the airport.
As he continued with his motivational presentation, Roever talked about resilience, hope and love, weaving all of these elements into a message of survival and of a strong desire to continue with life despite the serious injuries he received in combat.
He talked about never giving up hope and of the one moment that he was hopeless that almost cost him his life. He talked about the love for his wife, who he had never betrayed or been unfaithful to.
Roever was shipped off to Vietnam shortly after his marriage, leaving his teenage bride behind only to return a different man, or so he imagined. Despite the extensiveness of his injuries, the love his wife had for him never faltered.
Roever also told the Soldiers to watch out for their battle buddies and to learn the signs that someone considering suicide may display. He related this message to having been in combat, saying that after a while you develop a sense for your surrounding and you begin to feel and smell the danger in the air. "If something doesn't seem right, it probably isn't," he said.
Roever peppered his message of love, survival and hope with a unique brand of humor, which served to fortify his message that if he could survive, anyone could.
He added an excellent and tactful touch of humor as he talked about the moment he had lost all hope and had decided to take his life.
Lying in his hospital bed, he decided that he did not want to continue living and being a burden to his wife. He reached for the tube that was attached to the bottle that was keeping him alive and disconnected it. He lay back on his bed and waited to die but nothing happened.
"After a while I got hungry. I had pulled the wrong tube," he said.
He also added light to the moment when his wife first saw him in the hospital. He said that as his wife stood before him -- he wearing nothing but gauze and bandages and she a mini skirt. She said to him, "Welcome home Davey." "And I know that means when she calls me Davey," said Roever laughing.
He added that he then asked his wife "How can you love me? I'm not handsome anymore. I'm so ugly." To which she responded, "You were never handsome in the first place."
For almost an hour Roever shared his story latticed with personal experiences and humor.
When it was over, Roever received an standing ovation from Baumholder Soldiers and a resounding "welcome home."
(Editor's note: Shortly after hearing Roever's presentation, a Soldier went forward to Army Community Service counselors and expressed his personal feelings about wanting to take his life. He told the counselors that Roever's speech gave him the hope that he needed not to give up.)