Above, Dave Roever speaking at a 9/11 remembrance ceremony. "9/11 Remembrance Ceremony" by Fort Bragg is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
May 2021 – “All gave some; some gave all.” Those words are attributed to Korean War veteran and purple heart recipient Howard Osterkamp. The phrase is often heard or repeated around Memorial Day with the intent of drawing one’s mind to the sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate price to secure freedom.
Of those who gave “some,” many gave a great deal more than others. Among those, Dave Roever. The young son of a South Texas minister, Roever joined the U.S. Navy at the height of the Vietnam War.
Serving as a riverboat gunner in the elite Brown Water Black Berets, eight months into his tour of duty in Vietnam, he was burned beyond recognition when a phosphorous grenade he had readied to throw exploded in his hand.
A disfigured face and mutilated body necessitated a 14-month hospitalization and numerous major surgeries. His life was spared, but his body would carry the scars for a lifetime. Those scars, however, both physical and emotional, became a bridge for him to impact the lives of countless others.
For more than 50 years, Roever, through Roever Evangelistic Association (REA), has spent his life ministering to those who, like him, deal with the emotional and physical scars of war.
Associate REA evangelist John Arroyo, retired U.S. Army Green Beret, spoke with AFA Journal on behalf of Roever and REA.
AFA Journal: In light of the upcoming Memorial Day, how important is it to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice serving their country?
John Arroyo: It’s very important. As we look back on the heritage of this nation, we see that it was men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice that made this nation as great as it is. My children today live in a free nation because of those who willingly gave their lives.
REA strives to ensure they are never forgotten and their sacrifices are not in vain. As a ministry, we have always made it a point to honor them because we still stand on the sacrifices they made. We are a blessed nation because of them, and Memorial Day is just a time we can come together as a nation and say thank you and give them recognition.
AFAJ: Many surviving soldiers are severely wounded, both physically and emotionally. Do they receive adequate care?
JA: We can look back with certainty and say Vietnam veterans didn’t receive proper care. The same could be said of many Desert Storm veterans. Post 9/11 soldiers, however, are much better taken care of.
That’s partly because many Vietnam and Desert Storm vets are the ones working in the VA now. They stepped up into roles of leadership and became our advocates. They wanted to make sure the veterans that came after them weren’t left behind like they were.
Though it’s not perfect, it has greatly improved, and I think for the most part soldiers can get what they need. The resources are available, and there is plenty of assistance available. There are plenty of people willing and capable of helping. It’s just a matter of connecting the veteran with the right organization.
AFAJ: How does REA fit into that equation as an organization and ministry that cares for veterans?
JA: We minister on many fronts, but the primary way is through our Operation Warrior Reconnect program. We have weeklong men’s sessions that minister to veterans, first responders, and active duty to help them get past whatever they are going through.
Through the years, REA has found that as veterans bring their baggage home, the spouse can be greatly affected as well. So we have three-day women’s sessions that allow them to come together and share their experiences and be ministered to.
Beyond that, REA understands the importance of marriage, so we have couple’s sessions. We keep that small, at about five couples, but we do that multiple times a year. It’s an opportunity for the couples to come together and work on their relationship with one another.
Then finally, in an effort to minister to the entire family, we offer a family camp. It is a weeklong program with hands-on-learning, fun, and plenty of family time. The goal is to help the family adjust to the challenges they may be facing.
In addition to all those things, Dave’s speaking schedule stays full with him speaking to churches, schools, businesses, men’s conferences, military installations, and more.
AFAJ: Do you get encouraging feedback and success stories?
JA: Yes. All the time. In fact, I’m one of those success stories. Almost seven years ago, I became a product of one of REA’s successful programs.
I’m one of the survivors of the second mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, on April 2, 2014. Four soldiers were killed that day. I survived being shot in the throat, but my life after that seemed to lose direction. I didn’t know where to go for help or who could give me answers.
I attended one of REA’s sessions, and I was touched by God. He met me at that place and provided healing. Later, Dave asked me to come on staff. I am living proof of what God can do through this ministry. I’m just one of many testimonies.
AFAJ: Having been wounded, do you find that you are able to connect with soldiers in a way others cannot?
JA: Yes. I’m here today because I could relate to Dave as a result of his scars. Dave often sits across from these soldiers and just weeps because he can remember what it was like.
Since 9/11 Dave has been all over the world ministering to soldiers. He has that opportunity, and is called, because with his scars, he can relate when few others can.
AFAJ: How important is the spiritual element in the healing process?
JA: It is the most important aspect. Sure, we want to see the veterans up and moving and enjoying the physical activities like kayaking and such. That’s important, and the physical activities are great, but our number one focus is the spiritual aspect.
That is the bedrock of our organization and ministry. Our goal is to reach these soldiers in a spiritual way. I attribute the success of my healing and recovery to being introduced to God through the work of REA, and we want to continue to offer that hope to others.
AFAJ: Dave Roever gave some in Vietnam, and he is still giving all today ministering to soldiers during their darkest hours.
Dave Roever was not available for interview. At the time of this writing, Brenda, his wife and ministry partner of 53 years, passed away. Roever, however, was insistent upon moving forward with the story in spite of his tragic loss.
In light of his wife’s passing, Roever said, “I am devastated but not destroyed. We will not be denied our destiny! I will move forward more passionately than ever. This ministry is committed to doubling down on my mission ... that none should perish!”
Learn more about the ministry of REA at daveroever.org or call 817.238.2000.
Find other resources to serve veterans in Matthew White’s article “Help for hurting heroes” in AFA Journal, 11/19 (afajournal.org).