Vietnam War veteran helps himself by helping others

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50-year DAV member fights PTSD by volunteering

In 1966, Roy T. Rogers was serving as a Marine in the Vietnam War when he stepped on a land mine that took part of his left hand and portions of his foot. His road to recovery included 15 months in the hospital.

Upon his return to the states, Rogers became a member of DAV and a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. He retired after 33 years at the post office in 2000.

Despite his best efforts to stay busy and keep his mind occupied, Rogers said some of the horrors of combat had followed him home and persisted after his retirement because he had more time on his hands.

“I was a nervous wreck,” said Rogers, a Wisconsin native. “The doctors told me if I kept it all inside, I would go bananas.”

A tipping point for Rogers occurred shortly after he retired from the post office, when a neighbor noticed something wasn’t quite right.

“It was a neighbor of mine who saw I needed something to do,” said Rogers. “They suggested volunteering at the local hospital.”

Fast forward a decade and a half, and Rogers has volunteered more than 2,600 hours at hospitals by driving veterans to and from medical appointments and church and by visiting veterans at their homes.

“I think I would have fallen apart with post-traumatic stress disorder if I didn’t volunteer,” said Rogers. “People need to volunteer. They have to consider the plight of the people who can’t do things on their own.”

Rogers’ wife Darlene, who is Senior Vice Commander of DAV Auxiliary Chapter 17 in Oshkosh, Wisc., has noticed the difference in her husband.

“I have noticed more smiles,” she said. “He likes to keep busy. He is not one to just sit in a chair. He is out among the community nearly every day.”

“This is a perfect example of how we can tremendously help ourselves by being selfless and helping others,” said DAV National Director of Voluntary Service John Kleindienst. “We all want a sense of purpose. It’s in our DNA as veterans. When veterans like Roy get involved in giving back, we all win. His service, his sacrifice and his volunteer work have benefitted a countless number of veterans’ lives, to include his very own.”

Rogers is not shy about encouraging his fellow veterans or anyone to volunteer.

“I am alive today because of volunteering,” said Rogers. “If you forget about your own problems for a bit and help others, you’ll see how happy you can make other people, and it just makes me feel so good.”

Rogers, in part, credits helping veterans also coping with the wounds of war for helping him with his own PTSD struggles.

“I see people coming into the hospital who are in somewhat worse shape than me,” he said. “I can’t feel sorry for myself that I got hurt. It makes me feel better to be able to help them. Please, if you have any spare time, volunteer. Someone needs you.”

Rogers joined DAV in March 1966, making March his 50-year mark as a member.

“Beyond my family, DAV is first and foremost in my life,” he said. “They have helped me immensely.  DAV helped me retain all of my benefits, and I have a lot of good friends in DAV.”

For more information on ways to volunteer for DAV, visit https://www.dav.org/help-dav/volunteer/volunteer-locally-help-the-va/.

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