WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - On July 26, 1969 — at the height of the Vietnam War — Dave Roever was in the U.S. Navy manning his station aboard a gun boat. As he tried to throw a grenade, a sniper's bullet set it off in his hand just inches from this face.
"When that grenade exploded it took off half my skin," Roever said. "I looked down and my face was on my boots."
Roever suffered multiple severe injuries, burns covered most of his body, and he endured painful operations.
"That day I paid the price of what I call the price of freedom," Roever said. "My personal payment was I lost my identity, I can't tell you how bad it hurt."
He said that his faith in God and his wife's love got him through dark days when he contemplated suicide after the incident.
When America went to war with Iraq, Roever shared his survival story with wounded soldiers and he hasn't stopped.
"I take my personal experience of these scars to these young men and women," he said. "They look at me and they listen because I've earned the right to be heard, and they know that."
Roever said he's encountered injured soldiers whose anger and bitterness threatens to overwhelm them.
"I've seen it change while I was talking to them," he said.
Roever is now 71.
He and his wife, Brenda, have two children and four grandchildren. He is sought after as a motivational speaker, speaks to church groups, and makes frequent appearances on television talk shows.
The Department of Defense sends him all over the world to address troops, and on Tuesday he met with soldiers at Schofield Barracks.
"What happened to me has been my advantage, not my disadvantage," Roever said. "I served my country and I'm proud of my scars and stripes."
Roever was awarded a Purple Heart for his Vietnam injuries.
He has undergone 55 surgeries and has another scheduled for March. His non-profit Roever Foundation operates two ranches where injured soldiers stay during their recovery.