By Cillea Houghton
In life, everybody struggles. But 41-year-old Gardner resident Andrew “Dallas” Rosacker, struggle doesn’t even begin to describe what he’s been through.
Growing up in Dallas, Texas, Rosacker came from a long line of Marines, including his father and grandfather, saying that he has “135 years of Marines in my family,” dating back to the Revolutionary War. It only seemed natural that Rosacker would follow in their footsteps, which is exactly what he did.
Before he entered the Marines, Rosacker attended various schools including San Diego State, University of Oklahoma, and University of Southern California, where he studied business and majored in marketing.
Rosacker entered the Marines in 1989 and was deployed in the Gulf War and then in Somalia. From 2003-2007, he was deployed to Iraq to help train an Iraqi SWAT team. Though he was over there off and on for three years, his experience was one he will never forget.
“It was crazy. I got shot at every day,” he said of his time in Iraq.
In 2003, Rosacker was involved in a deadly car bombing. One day as he and his team were driving down the road, they noticed that another car was speeding toward them. Rosacker told his team to watch out for the suspicious vehicle. He began to shoot flares as a way to signal them, but the car kept approaching.
“My last resort was to open fire,” he said of his next course of action, which caused the engine of the other vehicle to blow out. “When I looked down at the car, the driver looked up at me, smiled, and then pushed a button.” It was this simple action that would change Rosacker’s life forever. The blast from the car bomb caused the Marine to be thrown from the car, where he landed on the street headfirst.
“[When] I woke up, I was being pronounced dead,” Rosacker said, also adding that he had been shot in the stomach. “In the end, my whole team died in that blast except for me.”
But this wasn’t the only traumatic event that Rosacker would be faced with. In 2010, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body. “When I had my stroke, I was in the best shape of my life,” he said.
Rosacker also revealed that he flat-lined twice while in the hospital and doctors told him he would never be able to walk again. But that didn’t stop him from trying.
“I walk every day now,” said Rosacker.
In spite of his injuries, the war veteran is currently training for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in swimming, which he cites as his favorite sport.
He has already competed in a disability meet in Georgia and has 11 more, where he will go up against other athletes with disabilities. If Rosacker does make the U.S. team, he says it will be one of the greatest accomplishments of his life.
“If I’m going from being pronounced dead to making the U.S. Olympic team, how often does that happen?” he said, also adding that he would be the only one-handed swimmer on the team, due to the paralysis.
Over the years, war has always been a sensitive issue. The Iraq War is one that has particularly struck a nerve with people and has some questioning why we were over there. But Rosacker believes that the United States’ presence in Iraq is important and certainly not a waste.
“I know that weapons of mass destruction are over there, I saw them with my own eyes,” he said of why we should have a presence in the country. “If we don’t keep fighting and get rid of as many of the enemy as we can, then the more they’re going to want to attack us.”
Rosacker also feels that in spite of the general distaste for war, it actually serves a very important purpose for our country.
“It’s not a bad thing because war is the reason why everyone is free today, we fought for the freedom of everyone else,” he said. “A lot of people out there don’t like war because they see Americans dying. We’re over there for a reason, to not be attacked on our own soil.”
Rosacker also said that he even knew fellow fighters who felt they shouldn’t have a presence in Iraq, but ultimately changed their view after experiencing war.
“I had friends in Iraq who were against the war, but finally realized that it’s real once they saw their own friends die right next to them,” said Rosacker, acknowledging that he lost 100 friends while in Iraq.
Even though he has experienced the horrors of war, Rosacker has no regrets about the experience.
“Everyone that was over there would do it all again, including myself, because I believe we’re doing the right thing. If you asked anyone in the military today if they’d do it all over again, I guarantee they’d say yes,” he said.
In addition to preparing for the Paralympics, Rosacker also travels doing motivational speaking.
“People take life for granted until they end up like me,” he said, “Life is way too short.”