Dana Bowman, motivational speaker, drops in on UCC

Retired Army Sergeant First Class Dana Bowman jumped 5,000 feet from a plane to the UCC track, Thursday, Oct. 8, equipped with a helmet, a parachute, and two prosthetic legs.

Bowman was here to present his motivational speech “It’s Not The Disability, It’s The Ability.”

Some of Bowman’s spectators traveled over a hundred miles to hear his speech. “It’s frightening in itself [to lose both legs], but to stand back up and show everybody else the dedication it takes to follow through [with life], is incredible,” said audience member Chris Johnson, of Klamath Falls.

Ernest King, chairman of the Marion Carl Foundation and another spectator, called Bowman’s life “a triumph over tragedy.”

Bowman lost his legs during a high altitude maneuver while performing with the U.S. Army Parachute Competition Team, The Golden Knights,  when a fellow skydiver collided with Bowman at 300 mph. The force of the collision sheared off both of Bowman’s legs and took the life of his fellow skydiver. “Nothing prepared me for this,” Bowman recalls.

After months of rehabilitation through therapists and doctors, Bowman became the first double amputee to re-enlist in the United States Army. “I was still watching my teammates doing their jobs, their duty, [and] their mission, while I was being a spectator, instead of a participant. Sure it was tough; life is. But we can’t give up, we have to continue, one step at a time,” says Bowman.

After re-enlisting, Bowman returned to North Carolina to the Golden Knights and returned to competition, finding a way to use prosthetics in his jumping. “They gave me a chance,” he says.

Bowman originally enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduating high school in 1981. He started out as a heavy equipment operator and then entered the Special Forces where he assisted in the Grenada and Panama invasion. Bowman was awarded the Bronze Star for his experience in Grenada. “But it wouldn’t compare to what I have today,” says Bowman.

Bowman retired from the United States Army in 1996, then attended the University of North Dakota to earn a Bachelor Degree in Commercial Aviation.  Bowman, who worked up from his private pilot license, is now the first double-amputee helicopter instructor in the world, according to his website. 

According to CNN, an average of five U.S. military servicemen commit suicide a day. In order to encourage service personnel, Bowman frequently visits the five major U.S. military hospitals: Portsmouth Naval, Walter Reed Army, Balboa Naval, Brooke Army, and Bethesda Naval. “There are a lot of troops out there especially looking for help,” says Bowman.

Since his accident, Bowman has been interviewed in over 250 national television shows including “Dateline,” “A Current Affair,” “Real TV,” and “Extra” and was also featured in a Nike commercial which can be found at   http://danabowman.com/video_library.php  under the video entitled “Nike Spec.” Bowman explains, however,  that “it’s not about the shows;  it’s about giving back.” Bowman has also accomplished approximately 1,000 jumps since his accident.

Further information about Dana Bowman can be found at his website, www.danabowman.com.

The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.