'I'm not dead yet' – Veteran sets world record, pushing van a mile

By CHRISTOPHER HEIMERMAN | Daily Gazette, Sterling, Ill. | Published: October 3, 2016

DIXON (Tribune News Service) – For 2 hours, Chris Dever solidified his position as one of the toughest guys in the Sauk Valley’s history.

His bruised, battered, Purple Heart-worthy facade melted as he reflected on why he pushed a 6,125-pound van a mile Sunday afternoon at Dixon Municipal Airport.

As he neared the cones – the goal line, as his “coach,” Scott Berge called them – he thought of one. Singular. Thing.

“It just made me remember my brothers,” Dever, 44, of Sterling said. “I made it back. Some of them didn’t. This was a way to remember them.”

On Sept. 13, 1993, Dever took a sniper’s round between the ribs, which ran through about an inch from his spine. That was 3 weeks before the Battle of Mogadishu, also known and Black Hawk Down, in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Dever was a member of the Army’s 2-14 Infantry 10th Mountain Infantry Division QRF. Two members lost their lives in that battle. Another, Russ Hofer, 58, remembers Dever’s return to base.

“They had to blow a hole in the wall to get back in,” he said before Dever’s undertaking Sunday, preceded by this warning:

“If you guys see me throwing up, that’s natural,” Dever said to a crowd a few dozen who came out to watch his feat. “I’m used to it by now.”

Luckily, no one saw anything from Dever’s stomach on the tarmac, not literally, anyway. But figuratively speaking? You bet. Guts, and lots of them.

About a tenth of a mile into the trek, he shed his compression sleeves and wrist supports. His right hand had fallen asleep, which Dever shrugged off.

He alternated between pushing, palms pressed, fingers splayed, against the rear windows of the van of his church, Amazing Grace Assembly, to putting his rear into it, pushing his back to its very limits.

Near the quarter-mile point, a plane lifted off from Charles R. Walgreen Field, about 30 meters behind the van’s bumper.

“If it weren’t for you, none of us would be able to be that close to a plane taking off on a runway,” Berge said. “Thanks for that, buddy!”

“I’m not 1-tenth as crazy as him,” said Rich “Snooky” Rutherford, one of several muses Dever credits.

“Yeah, but I didn’t give my kidney to someone else, either,” Dever said as he heaved the van, inch by inch with his posterior.

He also credits local powerlifters and, most of all, the guy who sat in the driver’s seat Sunday, his nephew, Cody Dever, 27, who’d love nothing more than to serve in the military, if it weren’t for his heart transplant at age 5, and his kidney transplant at 13.

“My biggest inspiration is the guy behind the wheel,” Dever said “They didn’t give him a chance to survive, and that was years and years ago.”

One year ago, Dever pushed a Toyota Tacoma a mile near The Brandywine, but it wasn’t Guinness Book of World Records-accredited. For the past couple of years, he’s just been practicing for this. While massive men have pushed planes and similar masses a 100 yards or so, there was a void in Guinness’ book: pushing a vehicle a mile. So Dever reached out to Guinness a few months ago and, a couple of weeks ago, the record-keeping fixture approved the category. Dever said at about the half-mile mark that in about 12 weeks, he’ll get his certificate.

“But first, I’ve gotta finish this,” he said. “You get to a point where your body has nothing to do with it. It’s about the training you’ve done. It’s about the nutrition, and the mental preparation.”

To turn the controls over to his mettle, he worked his way up to 3,500 leg reps, and 3,500 more with his arms, on a parked vehicle in his driveway. That workout took about 4 hours.

“If you work, you train, and you listen to others, you can attain great goals,” he said. “On my first day of training, I completed my first goal. The next goal was the next day of training, and it just grew and grew. You only eat an elephant one bite at a time.”

He’s a regular contributor to charities, especial Kids Hope USA, which works for at-risk children, but would like to inspire anyone. Of any demographic. Any body type. Any place in life.

“This is me saying donate to a charity … any charity,” he said. “But this is also me saying, ‘I’m not dead yet.’ When the world labels you a disabled vet, it’s up to you to prove the world wrong.”

©2016 the Daily Gazette (Sterling, Ill.)
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