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Devastating sky collision did not ground Dana Bowman
Aug 5, 2013 - By Andrea Novotny, Staff Writer
In 1994, Dana Bowman, a U.S. Special Forces soldier and member of the U.S. Army's Golden Knights, was performing training maneuvers with the Golden Knights skydiving team in Yuma, Ariz.,
Suddenly, practice went terribly awry.
In a maneuver known as the Diamond Track, Bowman and his teammate, Sgt. Jose Aguillon, were to free fall away from each other for about a mile and then turn 180 degrees and fly back toward each other, crisscrossing in the sky.
The top half of the diamond was successful, but then instead of crisscrossing, the divers collided in midair.
The impact killed Aguillon and severed Bowman's legs.
But Bowman came back to skydiving -- and the Army.
Since the accident, he has made it his life's work to inspire others as a motivational speaker and skydiver, and he did both last week at the third annual Rocking the Winds fundraiser in Crowheart.
Bowman said he travels all over the United States, to "let them know that I haven't given up," he said. He has shared his story in 18 states in the last couple of months alone.
"Every day is an adventure when you're able to travel," he said.
In his travels, Bowman has touched the lives of many, but he said his own life was touched recently by a man named Angel in Florence, Calif.
After a speech he delivered on Memorial Day, he invited 90-year-old Angel, a World War II veteran who said he had served under Gen. George S. Patton, to the stage.
"Angel says, 'I want to say something.' I said, 'Absolutely.' I gave the mike to him -- it was so quiet," Bowman said.
"(Angel said) 'Do you believe, do you believe those idiots? Do you believe that those idiots thought that they could beat us? The people we fought against. The enemy. Those were the idiots.'"
After the show, Bowman gave Angel a challenge coin, a commemorative medallion issued to service members as a way for them to show proof of membership in a campaign, battle or group.
Angel said he had never received one before.
Bowman recently received a call from Angel's daughter informing him that Angel had died. During the call, Rebecca said she had met Bowman several years ago at a prosthetic convention.
"I'm an amputee also," she told Bowman. "You called me on the phone late after I had my accident. You talked to me and told me it would be OK and that I would do fine in life, and I did."
Bowman became the first double amputee to re-enlist in the U.S. Army, and he has appeared on more than 250 international and national television shows.
"It's not about me," he said. "It's about giving back."
Bowman is involved in a range of altruistic work, including skydiving into Special Olympics events and delivering speeches, and working with the VFW and other amputees and disabled people.
He also established the Bowman Limb Bank Foundation in 2011, which acts as a resource for those in need who require prosthetics.
"I'm just one guy," he said, but he's part of "a great big team that likes to give back."
Giving back is what brought Bowman to Crowheart for the Green Beret Foundation fundraiser.
He did a parachute demonstration Thursday during the event's opening ceremony in which he trailed a 1,500 square-foot American flag. He did repeat performance at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
He said he doesn't want people to simply donate money.
"We want you to come and see the joy of giving," he said.