Commander David LeRoy “Raider” Roark was born to fly on May 24, 1937 in Danville, IL. The eldest of Clarence and Catherine Roark’s nine children, Raider was also destined to mentor siblings, Boy Scouts, young recruits, comrades and colleagues with a gentle wisdom gained from life’s experience and desire to see others reach their utmost potential.
Enlisting in the Navy in January 1958, he attended Recruit Training at Naval Station Great Lakes, IL, flowed by assignment to Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, TX while awaiting orders to Airman Prep School in Norman, OK. He completed Aviation Structural Mechanic training in October 1958, at Naval Technical Training Center in Memphis, TN and reported to his first duty station, Aviation Training Unit 212 at NAS Kingsville, TX, in January 1959. Promoted to Aviation Structural Mechanic Third Class, he set his sights on becoming a Naval Aviator.
Raider was accepted for pilot training at NAS Pensacola, FL as a Naval Aviation Cadet in August 1960. Commissioned an Ensign on June 11, 1962, he received his coveted Wings of Gold the following day at NAS Corpus Christi, TX pinned by his future wife, Marguerite Ann Kiesel of Victoria, TX. That golden moment inspired a 43-year marriage, four children and nine grandchildren.
As a Naval Aviator, Raider accumulated a flight log of 15,400 hours, including 6,800 hours in the T-39. He considered his students the best and brightest and it is a testament to his ethics and guidance that they continue to insure the safety of our country as they fly across the globe today.
Raider’s initial fleet assignment was Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland, as a member of Airborne Early Warning Squadron Thirteen (VW-13) followed by:
- Antisubmarine Squadron Thirty Eight (VS 38), flying the S-2 Tracker
- Two combat deployments to Southeast Asia onboard USS Bennington (CV 20)
- Training Command Tours Training Squadron Five (VT-5) flying the T-28 Trojan
- Training Squadron Four (VT-4), flying the T-2 Buckeye as a Carrier Qualification and Air Gunnery Instructor
In May 1970, Raider transferred to NAS Cecil Field Jacksonville, FL for Replacement Pilot Training the A-7 Corsair. He was then assigned to Light Attack Squadron Sixty Six (VA-66) and deployed to the Mediterranean Sea onboard the USS Independence (CV-62). Returning from deployment, he was assigned to Light Attack Squadron 174 and served as the Maintenance Officer, Operations Officer and Executive Officer for now Senator John S. McCain upon his release as a POW.
Personal Decorations/Combat Awards include:
- (2) Air Medals
- Meritorious Service Medals
- Vietnam Service Medals with (2) Stars
- National Defense Service Medal
- Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
In 1977, Raider reported as Commanding Officer of Training Squadron Seven (VT-7) at NAS Meridian, MS flying the TA-4 Skyhawk. Following his command tour, he was assigned Air Officer (Air Boss) aboard the USS Lexington (CV-16). His final assignment was Chief Staff Officer at Training Air Wing Six (CTW-6), where he retired from active duty on October 1, 1985.
Thirty minutes later, he reported for duty as the T-39 Site Manager and Chief Pilot flying the T-39 Sabreliner as a government contract pilot for the Naval Flight Officer Undergraduate Flight Training Program. He was rarely out of the air for the next 20 years, employed as a contract pilot by Lockheed Support Systems, Northrop Corporation, Sabreliner Corporation, Raytheon Aerospace, Vertex Aerospace and L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace. He received a B.S., in 1998, in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle University.
His final flight was a fatal ROKT 412 training mission on January 10, 2006, which crashed in the mountains in Georgia. Full military honors were bestowed at Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, with a caisson and flyover memorial service and monument at Arlington National Cemetery in August 2006.