Roever receives hero's welcome in Johnson City

By Greg Miller
STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com

  
JOHNSON CITY -- While many veterans may have received a chilly reception upon their return to the United States after the Vietnam War, Dave Roever was treated to a hero's welcome during his appearance at East Tennessee State University's D.P. Culp Center Monday night.
   Roever, who as a civilian was recently awarded four-star-general status with the Air Force, related his experiences in a humorous fashion that kept his audience in laughter throughout his presentation. As an example, he told about studying for the ministry and being six hours away from a Bible college degree. "I was preparing for the ministry and this notice appeared to go take my physical for the draft," Roever shared.
   The audience erupted in laughter when Roever said, "I wrote back and told them I felt fine. They said I still had to go take my physical, which I did to my own delight. It was the only exam I passed that semester. I got an O-plus on the blood test. I studied all night for it.
   "They told me I was going to be inducted in the Army. At 8:30 the next morning when I was supposed to be sworn in, I didn't show up. I wasn't a war protester; I was basically a chicken. I was too proud to go to Canada, too chicken to go to Vietnam."
   The laughter continued as Roever said, "The question occurred to me, 'Where does a proud chicken go?' Kentucky. Just kidding."
   Roever thought the Navy "would be a great place to go because that way I wouldn't have to go in the military. I actually joined the Navy for four years, which was required to join, as opposed to being drafted for two years, if you were drafted. I thought it was a fair trade, double the tour of duty, don't get hurt."
   On Roever's second day in boot camp, the discovery was made of his Bible college days. Roever recalled, "They said, 'You went to college?' I said, 'Yes, Sir, I went to Bible college. I was about to flunk out. I was below 'C' level.' They told me that because I had gone to college, it didn't matter what the grades were, I was leadership material, which was my first introduction to Naval intelligence. I as a college flunky was going into leadership training with the U.S. Navy."
   Roever explained his life's philosophy. "My philosophy in life is 'Why run when you can walk? Why walk when you can ride? Why stand when you can sit? Why sit when you can lay down? I've narrowed my philosophy to 'Why run when you can lay down?"
   "I was never physical. I played football in the ninth grade. I played one down, it hurt, I quit and joined the band and watched the other kids get hurt."
   Taking a Bible college student and preacher's kid, "just married, knows nothing about the military, they're going to train me with the Brown Water Black Beret. It was a recipe for disaster."
   While in Vietnam, Roever was badly burned when a sniper's bullet hit a phosphorous grenade which exploded as he was preparing to throw the device. "The bullet entered the back of my hand between my thumb and index finger, exploding the grenade six inches from my right ear. The grenade probably saved my life."
   Fourteen months and 15 major surgeries later, Roever left the hospital. During his time in the hospital came his lone suicide attempt. "I didn't have a gun," he recalled. "I didn't have a knife, so I pulled the tube out and laid my head back and I waited to die. Then I got hungry. I pulled out lunch. I pulled the wrong tube. I'm lying there thinking, 'I can die some other day. I'm going to eat.' I got a chewing out from the doctor. He realized what I had done."
   A scar, according to Roever, "is evidence you got hurt, but it's evidence you got over it. There's no sense in being ashamed of it when it's a testament of your victory." He says his scars have also opened doors of ministry to young people and the military.
   Roever recently spent four days ministering to troops at Langley Air Force Base. "I had the privilege of ministering to aviators who had just returned from Iraq, where they quite colorfully told me their stories of blowing up radar installations," he said. As he ministered to those airmen, he noted that their hearts were "so open to the message of hope in Christ."
   Next January, Roever will minister to personnel at bases in the Middle East. "Throughout the Middle East, I'll have the opportunity to minister to the troops, who are there today standing their watch giving us the privilege to stand in this place without fear of terrorism disintegrating us, because they went to the root of the problem and are dealing with it there," he said.
   America's appreciation level for the military is currently at an all-time high, according to Roever. "There is, even in the military, an awareness of that civilian appreciation," he said. "Since Sept. 11, there's been a new relationship between the military and the civilian population that has encouraged me immensely and especially our troops.
   "A lot of people seem to keep pulling up this negative suggestion that since 9-11 'America has forgotten,' 'we're not praying,' 'we're not going to churches.' Every church that I go to practically is packed out. They're building new buildings all over the nation trying to accommodate the people. There's a great revival, a great awakening, an awareness of the sacrifices of our young men and women for our freedom."
   America, Roever believes, "is on the brink" of what he considers to be a "great awakening," and "out of tragedy has come a triumph that the enemy did not expect to see."
   Although life has been an "odyssey" with its "ups and downs," there has been more good than bad, according to Roever. Success, he said, "doesn't really have anything to do with money. It has everything to do with things like grandkids, a wife, family, faith and friendships. Most of those things, in my opinion, determine what success is all about."
   Roever says he is a very happy man. "I'm surrounded by great employees and great friends and family, but I have a personal relationship with Christ that makes all these things be able to come together. In that relationship, I've discovered that though I may fail, He never ever has failed me."
   Roever describes his relationship with the Lord as "functional. My life revolves around that relationship. It's the most important part of my life."
   Roever said he wanted to recommend "the son of God as a point of light in your life. Don't be too proud to bow your spiritual knee before the Almighty confessing He is God."
   The event at ETSU was sponsored by Good Samaritan Ministries and Manna House.