FORT POLK, La. — Fort Polk’s Chaplain’s Office hosted the 70th annual National Day of Prayer May 6 at the Main Post Chapel. Fort Polk leadership, chaplains, Soldiers, community leaders and pastors gathered to eat breakfast and listen to scripture, prayers and words spoken by the clergy leading the celebration. Dave Roever, chairman and founder of the nonprofit organizations Roever Evangelistic Association and Roever Educational Assistance Programs, based in Fort Worth, Texas, was the guest speaker for the event.
Brig. Gen. David S. Doyle, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general, welcomed those in attendance and said this was a special day, not only for the Army, but also for the nation. He urged the audience to pay attention to Roever and his experiences.
“This day brings us an opportunity to listen to a man who has gone through great adversity, faced real challenges, dealt with the uncertainties of what life has offered and still found the strength to go on thanks to his foundation of faith,” he said.
Doyle said Roever’s message was sure to resonate with leaders, Soldiers and Family members, including individuals who may be struggling with issues themselves.
“His ability to find strength in adversity due to his belief in God is a message we can all take forward and carry with us no matter our background. If we open our hearts and minds, we can learn to deal with adversity through his example and share with others the ability to handle anything that comes our way,” he said.
Chap. (Col.) Scott Hammond, post chaplain, introduced Roever. He said Roever is a superb communicator who has traveled the globe speaking to people at churches, national conventions, public schools and the U.S. military. Hammond said Roever shares his gripping story with engaging humor, while imparting hope.
“I have heard Dave speak many times over the years. He shares the stories of his life and how he overcame tragedy and feelings of worthlessness, as well as finding value in faith and meaning and purpose in his life,” he said. Hammond said as he looked out as his audience filled with Soldiers that he is reminded that there are folks in this incredible community who are struggling with many of those same issues.
“I would encourage you, as Dave shares his inspirational story, to remember you are never alone,” he said.
Roever is a recipient of the Purple Heart and other service medals. At the height of the Vietnam War, he joined the U.S. Navy and served as a river boat gunner in the elite Brown Water Black Beret — until tragedy struck as war raged around him.
Eight months into his tour of duty in Vietnam, Roever was burned beyond recognition when a phosphorous grenade he was poised to throw exploded in his hand. The ordeal left him hospitalized for 14 months, where he underwent numerous major surgeries. Over the years Roever has continued to go under the knife.
“I’ve had 60 operations and it’s only in the last five years that I’ve been able to get my lips, eyelids and nose back,” he said.
Roever said that instead of a circle, he believes life is more like a triangle with the points being Family, friends and faith, which included his loving spouse, Brenda, who were part of the support system that helped him make it through his many trials.
“As I tell my story, I want you to listen for those values,” he said.
Roever also said there are three areas of life — physical, emotional and spiritual. Through life each of those areas can be damaged, he said.
“You can have physical injuries like I did and many Soldiers do, emotional injuries and spiritual (or moral injuries — the core of what you believe in). If your spirit is injured, you need help. That’s why 22 veterans a day take their own lives. They lose hope,” he said.
Roever said in the military, when you get physically hurt, you enter the hospital and medical personnel evaluate your damage.
“In my case, they measured all the damage they could with a tape measure. I had 50% third degree burns over my body and that was just the beginning,”
Roever was also damaged emotionally and spiritually. He said if he didn’t practice what he preaches when it comes to resiliency, he would have curled up and died.
“We cannot stand back and feel sorry for ourselves,” he said. “You see, in resiliency, that ability to bounce back after devastation and stay on course is imperative,” he said.
When the doctors finished their examination they told Roever he was 100% permanently and totally disabled and unemployable. Roever said he wanted to prove them wrong. He fought through what he described as excruciating pain in the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas. He said there were times, as they were peeling the dead skin off his injured body, that he wished for death. Only the strength and support of those caring, loving and praying for him helped him get through those dark days. Through the many surgeries and recovery periods, he never gave up.
“You don’t quit when people say you can’t. Quit listening to others. You be the man or woman that God made you to be and never quit,” he said.
As Roever finished sharing his poignant story filled with unimaginable grief and pain, as well as love and hope, he exemplified resiliency to his Fort Polk audience and requested that they inspire that same hope in others.
“Encourage those that are down and be that person that will carry them when they are in need,” he said.