By Dustin Perry, USARPACNovember 8, 2011
CAMP ZAMA, Japan, Nov. 2, 2011 -- An Army resiliency coach and Vietnam War veteran spoke to community members here on Nov. 2 in hopes of imparting to them a message of hope, inner strength, and facing life's challenges head on.
Dave Roever, a nationally recognized author and public speaker, was at Camp Zama Nov. 1-3 to take part in the installation's "Living Military Values Days" event. While here, he offered philosophical advice to service members and civilians, and took part in worship services at the Sagamihara Housing Area Chapel.
"It seems like when we try to bring focus to a purpose, it's easy to take it lightly. I'm going to ask you today to take those things seriously," Roever told an audience of Soldiers at Camp Zama's Community Activity Center. "When things hit you and tear your life apart, don't cave. You recover quicker when you can place value on a negative thing and turn it into a positive."
In addition to speaking engagements he conducts at schools, military installations, businesses and conventions worldwide, Roever started a foundation that assists wounded service members with rehabilitating not their body, but their mind and self-confidence.
Roever, 65, based out of Fort Worth, Texas, has firsthand insight into the difficult process of overcoming a traumatic wartime injury. While attending school in 1968, he was drafted and joined the Navy before deploying to Vietnam.
The following July, while serving as a forward gunner on a Mark II patrol boat, Roever and his crew members came under attack. The then-23-year-old Roever grabbed a white phosphorous grenade, pulled the pin, and was preparing to throw it when a sniper's bullet hit him in the hand and simultaneously ignited the grenade.
A large amount of the highly volatile chemical covered Roever's body and, in his own words, "blew my hair off, blew my face off, blew my ear off, burned three quarters of my face, across my chest, around my back, and down to my waist."
He was hospitalized for more than a year and underwent 15 major surgeries. He now bears significant scarring, is missing several fingers from his right hand, and is fitted with a prosthetic right ear.
"When that hand grenade blew, I didn't lose hope that day," said Roever. "I thought I was going to die. That's not losing hope, that's being realistic."
"I made a choice. I couldn't find any honor in [a life of blame]," he continued. "The world around me was falling apart. What held me together? It's not because I'm strong. It was my faith."
Faith, Roever said, has nothing to do with one's religion, but rather with believing in something greater than oneself. He said that although not everyone may be able to define their faith in easy terms, they must be willing to sacrifice greatly for it.
"Whatever you choose for your faith, it has to work under pressure," said Roever. "Whatever is your core value, it has to hold you together when your world's falling apart."
The Roever Foundation is directly involved in the Wounded Warrior Alliance, an organization that helps spread awareness of service members injured in combat. Roever also spearheaded the construction of retreats in Colorado and Texas, both known as Eagles Summit Ranch, and has plans to build a third. The facilities offer a host of extracurricular activities -- all-terrain vehicle and horse riding, fishing, a rifle range, a gymnasium -- as well as various classes.
"We have a very extensive training program to help [wounded veterans] retool for the future," said Roever. "We train them in public speaking and help them develop their own corporations so that they can be masters of their own destinies."
Roever, who married his wife Brenda before he left for Vietnam and has remained with her since, said he treasures any opportunity he has to be of encouragement to his fellow service members. He added that his own military experiences allow him to more directly relate to his audience.
"I can't hide my scars, so what do I do with them? I take them and I use them," said Roever. "These warriors look at me and they say, 'How do you deal with it?' I use my previous military experience as leverage to encourage the warriors of today who are facing some of the things I faced when I was their age. That is the real key to my purpose."
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