SF Soldier motivates Team Buckley
By Senior Airman Stephen Musal , 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 20, 2009
Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. -- Retired Army Sergeant First Class Dana Bowman related his story of loss and recovery at the Buckley Leadership Development Center Oct. 16.
Sergeant Bowman began his Army career as an engineer, quickly moving on to a special forces unit. He later joined the Army's elite parachute demonstration team, the Golden Knights. During annual training for the Golden Knights in February 1994, Sergeant Bowman's life changed in an flash.
During a maneuver called the Diamond Track, where two parachutists move away from each other for about a mile then fly back towards each other, crossing in the sky, Sergeant Bowman and his teammate Sgt. Jose Aguillon collided at a combined speed of 300 mph. Sergeant Bowman's legs were severed; his teammate died instantly.
Sergeant Bowman was determined not to let his devastating injury stop him.
Sergeant Bowman would work alongside specialists at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to learn to walk with prosthetic limbs. He was determined to prove "the words 'amputee' and 'useless' are not synonymous," Sergeant Bowman said.
While his determination to walk again was the catalyst which speeded his recovery, the parachutist was quick to credit the team at Walter Reed for making that happen.
"Imagine how many people are involved in making this work," Sergeant Bowman said.
Work it did. Nine months after his accident, Sergeant Bowman became the first double-amputee to re-enlist in the U.S. Army, highlighted with a parachute jump. After his re-enlistment, he rejoined the Golden Knights as a speaker and recruiter. This way, he could still make a difference.
"You need to continue to leave a legacy," Sergeant Bowman said. "You may take a few spills along the way."
Since the accident, Sergeant Bowman has made more than 1,000 jumps, including jumping into the Paralympics with the Golden Knights. After retiring from the Army in 1996, Sergeant Bowman went to college and became a commercial pilot.
"I do have a restriction on my pilot's license," he laughed. "It reads, 'must wear prosthetic legs while flying.'"
Despite the many challenges he has overcome, Sergeant Bowman stressed that since his retirement, his greatest satisfaction has come from giving back to those who've helped him, whether through visits to wounded warriors at military hospitals or helping out with veterans organizations. He encouraged others to do the same.
"Go out there, pat them on the back, ask them if you can help," Sergeant Bowman said. "Helping out is what it means to be an American."