Coming home, after serving in the military can be challenging.
Life often changes, as men and women who served in a variety of places and types of battlefronts learn to readjust to life stateside.
One retired chaplain would like to change things for veterans, and active duty personnel who live within northeast Oklahoma.
On Saturday, Sept. 24, Chaplain (Col.) Chester C. Egert, retired U.S. Army, will host the Northeast Oklahoma Veterans Reunion, a gathering for veterans, their families and those serving in today's Armed Forces.
The event will feature Rev. Dave Roever, a Vietnam veteran, as well as Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Brad Hanna state chaplain with the Oklahoma Army National Guard, and Rep. Josh West (R-Grove) a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
It will include a free barbeque dinner at 4:30 p.m., and the meeting set for 6 p.m. The event takes place at Crossroads Church, located at 56900 East Highway 59, Grove, near the intersection of Highways 59 and 129.
How it began
Egert retired to the Grove area three years ago, after visiting relatives in the area since 1999.
A year and half ago, Egert and his wife, Rhoda, began establishing a ministry, called Legacy TEAMS, to help provide spiritual formation, mentoring, coaching and training, for chaplains serving in the military and veterans.
Egert wanted to develop a ministry, which provided community support for those with military connections, after finding most churches did not have a specific support system or group for veterans.
A year ago, he formed a support group at Crossroads Church. Veterans and others, including spouses, meet once a month for breakfast at 8 a.m., on the first Friday of each month for the multi-denominational event.
About the event
Egert said he worked with Roever in Iraq and and other locations.
"He's a great speaker, engaging and fun," Egert said. "He is captivating in his presentation."
Egert said Roever talks about his recovery efforts, after being wounded and burned while serving in Vietnam.
"He understands what young veterans who get wounded are going through," Egert said. "He knows how to talk and encourage them.
"Nobody was ever disappointed listening to Dave."
Egert has several goals for Saturday's reunion. He would like to build patriotism within the community - and help young people see the patriotism which exists in the lives of young veterans; he would also like to connect veterans with pastors and other leaders, who can offer hope.
Another goal includes providing support for the men and women serving in the Oklahoma National Guard, who are deploying within the states and internationally, on a continual basis. He said the Oklahoma National Guard has personnel in Texas conducting Hurricane relief work, Afghanistan and the Ukraine.
"People don't realize how much our National Guard is supporting efforts around the world," Egert said.
He also hopes to develop a support network to have in place, in the event of a national disaster or international incident, to provide support or resources within a timely manner.
For more information, persons interested may contact Egert at 918-791-6137 or the church office at 918-257-8455. Egert may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or legacyteams.org.
Dave Roever grew up in South Texas. At the height of the Vietnam War, he received his draft notice. Having no desire to serve in the infantry, he joined the Navy and served as a river boat gunner in the elite Brown Water Black Beret in Vietnam.
Eight months into his tour of duty in Vietnam, Roever was burned beyond recognition when a phosphorous grenade he was poised to throw exploded in his hand. The ordeal left him hospitalized for 14 months, where he underwent numerous major surgeries. His survival and life are miraculous.
Today, with his humorous style, Roever serves nationally and internationally as a public speaker.
In every setting, Roever's message is one of hope. Using his life as an example, he addresses issues relevant to his audience and presents concrete solutions to life' s problems.
Often drawing upon his war experiences of loneliness, peer pressure, disfigurement and pain, as well as life's triumphs, Roever weaves a message of courage, commitment and survival that touches and transforms those who hear him.
Thirty-four years after his injuries, the Department of the Navy corrected its oversight by awarding Roever his Purple Heart, along with several other service medals. Because of his wartime experience of service, injury and recovery, he is often called upon to address troops on domestic military bases as well as those deployed in Iraq and other locations around the globe.