Sgt. Dave Rockow in 82nd Airborne during peacetime became recruiter and vets service officer

Pfc. David Rockow paints camouflage markings on the face of a fellow paratrooper before the 82nd Airborne's air drop at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida's panhandle in 1980. More than 2,500 paratroopers took part in the exercise. It is suppose to be the largest airborne jump since World War II. Photo provided

Pfc. David Rockow paints camouflage markings on the face of a fellow paratrooper before the 82nd Airborne’s air drop at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida’s panhandle in 1980. More than 2,500 paratroopers took part in the exercise. It is suppose to be the largest airborne jump since World War II. Photo provided

Dave Rockow has dedicated his entire adult life to the military, service personnel and veterans. He joined the 82nd Airborne as an 18-year-old, spent four years in the paratroopers, got out re-upped in the regular Army and spent almost 20 years as a National Guard recruiter, these past three years he has worked as an assistant Charlotte County Veterans Service Officer.

“I was going to join the Navy when I was 19, but I went out on a boat in Lake Erie away from shore where you couldn’t see land. I didn’t swim very well, so I figured the Navy was a poor choice of services. So I joined the Army,” the 53-year-old Port Charlotte, Fla. resident explained.

“When I went to the recruiting office the guy showed me a film on the paratroopers and said I’d get a $2,000 bonus if I joined the paratroopers,” he said.

“I thought jumping out of an airplane was cool. I was going to get paid extra for that.

“My mom wasn’t too thrilled when she heard I had signed up with the 82nd Airborne. “I went on active duty on June 7, 1979. I turned 18 when I was in basic training at Fort Benning, Ga.,” he said.

“We had three weeks of jump school. You had Ground Week where you learned how to jump out of an airplane and how to fall. Then you jumped from a 34 foot tower and your chute was connected to a cable. After that you graduated to a 250-foot tall tower,” Rockow recalled.

“From there it was the real thing. We started jumping from C-123 transports at Benning,” he said. “By that time you had been so conditioned in Jump School when the jump master slapped you on your rear end you jumped automatically. In those first jumps there was a good deal of space between you and the next person jumping. When you got to the 82nd Airborne it was how fast could you get out of the aircraft.”

The biggest jump Rockow ever took part in was when the 82nd jumped at Eglin Air Force Base in 1981.

“In that jump we put 2,500 troopers on the ground at Eglin. It was supposed to be the biggest jump since World War II,” he said.
Jumping at 1,250 a paratrooper will hit the ground in a minute or possibly a little more. He’s got a lot of equipment that goes out the door with him when he jumps that adds to his body weight.

“By the time your main parachute deployed you were probably down to about 1,000 feet. The pack you carried probably gave you another 100 pounds of weight,” Rockow said. “If it was under combat conditions, the idea was to get you on the ground as quickly as possible because the enemy was probably shooting at you.”

Sgt. David Rockow is in his camouflage uniform taken before he got out of the 82nd Airborne in 1983. Photo provided

Sgt. David Rockow is in his camouflage uniform taken before he got out of the 82nd Airborne in 1983. Photo provided

“During the four years I was in the 82nd I made 43 jumps. That’s not a lot. Some of the jump masters made thousands of jumps,” he said.

“The closest I ever came to war was an incident in 1981 where they packed up the 82nd at Fort Bragg, N.C., put us aboard transport plans and were going to send us to Iraq. Four hours later we stood down and jumped from the transports over Fort Bragg,” he recalled.

When Rockow got out of the paratroopers in 1983 and went back to being a civilian that didn’t last long. He realized he missed the military life and decided to go back into the service.

“I joined the National Guard in Ohio as a career counselor at the Military Enlistment Processing Station in Cleveland. My job there was to process people for the military,” he explained. “I was back in the military on active duty working for the guard.”

He spent the next two decades working in the military as a recruiter and a processing sergeant.

“Later I became a readiness NCO for a military police unit in Ohio. I was one of the people who kept the Guard unit going when it wasn’t fully operational. I handled the paperwork and the equipment for the unit,” he explained.

Rockow retired from the Army after 26 years of service in 2009. Because his parents lived in Englewood he came to Charlotte County. He went to work with Charlotte County Veterans Services four years ago as an assistant veterans’ service officer working in the Port Charlotte office.
The former soldier, recruiter and service officer has three sons: Ryan, Benjamin and Jonathan.

Rockow’s File

 This is Rockow today at his Charlotte County Veterans Service Center office in Port Charlotte. Sun photo by Don MooreName: David James Rockow
D.O.B: 17 June 1960
Hometown: Medina, Ohio
Currently: Port Charlotte, Fla.
Entered Service: 7 June 1979
Rank:  Sergeant
Unit: 82nd Airborne
Commendations: Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal (3rd Award), Army Good Conduct Medal (6th Award), National Defense Service Medal (2nd Award),  Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal (1st Hourglass Device), Noncommissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon (Advanced Level)

This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Thursday, July 4, 2013 and is republished with permission.

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David “Rock” Rockow, 56, of Port Charlotte passed away February 17, 2017 in New Orleans, LA. He was the son of James P. and Mary R. Rockow, born June 17, 1960 in Medina, OH. Rock served as a Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne in 1978, and upon returning he re-enlisted as the US Army recruiter for another 23 years. Rock moved to Florida in 2005 and continued being very active in the local veteran’s community as well as being a County Veteran Service Officer until he retired. He devoted endless times to many civil and military organizations.

Rock volunteered at the Florida International Air Show for nine years. He was known as the “Iceman”. He was part of the Douglas Jacobsen Veterans Appreciation Committee. Rock was an avid biker and rode with the SRD group. He always said “I don’t need a therapist, I have a motorcycle!” and letting the wind blow his troubles away.

Rock married the love of his life Kelly on July 4, 2015. They were able to experience a full life of fun and adventure traveling together in just a few short years.

He will be greatly missed by his wife, Kelly; sons, Ryan (Joy) Rockow; Benjamin Rockow and Jonathan Rockow; step-children, Joshua Puterbaugh, Chad Puterbaugh, Taylor Welch and Morgan Welch; 3 precious Grandchildren; brother, Gary A. (Laura) Rockow; numerous nieces, nephews, cousins; in-laws and a list of friends too numerous to count.

A gathering of family and friends will begin at 10:30 am, Saturday, March 4, 2017 with a memorial service to celebrate Rock’s life to start at noon at New Day Christian Church.

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in Rock’s memory to the ALS Association. To express condolences please visit and sign the online guest book.


  1. This is in reference to Sgt Dave Rockows story. I was on the ground “greeting” you as part of the “indigenous tribe” that was trying to stop you guys from taking our “village” (Duke Field).. I was with the 728th Tactical Control Squadron at the time. A portion of the squadron, less than 50 volunteered to spend the prior 2 and 1/2 weeks in the bush training with a Special Forces team in order to ambush you guys and slow your advance. We were all AF types, non-combat technicians, cooks, etc that had volunteered to get this training so we would then be the squadrons security force. It was great fun, and quite awesome to not only watch you guys float on down, but also get to open fire on you with our blanked out M-16s, and 60s. What a blast it was.

  2. This is reference to the Airborne Jump that took place at Eglin Air Force base in 1981. I was with the 18th Airborne Corp. and my company was also involved in that jump. Yes it was suppose to be the biggest Airborne jump in history. I got injured during that jump. As I remember that day there were a lot of troops that got serious hurt or injured. I am now approaching 57 years old and I was forced to retire because of injuries I sustained during that jump. I suffer daily with chronic nerve damage under the soles of my feet, calf muscles and had one knee totally replaced thus far. I am awaiting total knee replacement in my right knee also. I am on the pain medications Oxycodone for life and the injection shot “Humira”. Doctors have written letters on my behalf stating that my medical condition I suffer now is a direct result of the injuries I sustained while jumping into Eglin and other injuries sustained while being a paratrooper. As I recall from other soldiers after the jump in Eglin, there were troops that landed in trees, on tree stumps, and also on the freeway. It is evident that a lot of troops got injured because I was on a C-130 back to Fort Bragg after a “Force Road March”, with a swollen leg, and severe pain to my legs, knees and body with a plane full of injured soldiers. I am praying that anyone who reads this may assist me in my veterans claim that I have filed with the V.A. I have documented medical records of my injuries from active service but the V.A. continues to deny my claim. Thank you. Sergeant Melvin Kiaaina.

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