Dave Roever, who was severely wounded and permanently scarred when a grenade he was preparing to throw exploded in his hand while serving in Vietnam in July 1969, told those at Thursday’s 15th annual National Day of Prayer Breakfast at King’s Daughters Medical Center he was proud of his “scars and stripes” and “I wouldn’t change a day of my life.”

Roever (pronounced Ree-ver) said the injury that nearly took his life has enabled him to empathize with scores of other injured soldiers in a ministry that continues as he serves the military through a “resilience” program that includes camps for returning soldiers he operates in Colorado and Texas.

“Life is not fair,” Roever told the approximately 400 gathered for the breakfast in the basement of the Lexington Avenue parking garage. “It is not a question of if you will get hurt, but one of when you get hurt, how are you going to deal with it.”

Roever recalled the day he departed for Vietnam, and his young wife asked him if he was going to return home safely.

“I should have told her, ‘I don’t know, but probably not,’” Roever said, adding he knew the unit for which he was a riverboat gunner had the highest per-capita mortality rate in the war. Instead, he promised his wife he would be back “without a scar.”

“That’s the only promise I ever made to me wife in our 45 years of marriage that I did not keep,” Roever said, and while he does not believe God caused his injury, he does believe God allowed it to happen and for him to survive, because he had a purpose for him.

“I have been able to talk to those who have been wounded in combat or have been hurt in an accident, and tell them that I can empathize with them,” Roever said. “My scars are evidence of my injuries, and they connect me with others who are scarred.”

Roever managed to keep those at the breakfast laughing as he told of his terrible ordeal. He said that’s because he has learned the secret of life: “Don’t worry; be happy.”  

They say misery loves company, but that’s only true if you enjoy being miserable, Roever said. “Some people don’t want to be happy. They would rather wallow in their own troubles. I refuse to do that.”

Today, Roever works with soldiers dealing with post-traumatic stress.

“I refuse to call it a disorder or a syndrome because that implies that there is nothing you can do about it,” he said. “All of us have stress, but it doesn’t have to distress us. You can turn your tragedies into triumphs. I am 65 years old and I have never been better in my life. I look forward to each day.”

Thursday was the second time Roever, who conducts about 600 programs a year, had spoken in the Tri-State. In 1989, he spoke at Greenup County High School during a period when the school was struggling.

“I remember meeting the students and teachers at Greenup County High,” he said.

John D. Rowsey, a singer and songwriter from West Virginia who now lives in Flatwoods, sang a few of his songs at the breakfast. He formerly traveled with Karen Peck and New River, and his song “Four Days Late” was voted Gospel Music Song of the Year.

JOHN CANNON can be reached at jcannon@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2649.

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