I Love Life: Army Parachutist’s Legs Severed Mid-Air Collision
On February 6, 1994, Dana Bowman gained worldwide attention when he and his teammate Sgt. Jose Aguillon collided in midair during the U.S. Army’s elite parachute team’s annual training.
“Everything was just great. We did a few jumps that Sunday morning. The crowd on the ground could see us from 13 thousand feet away. Wearing smoke producing “wingtips,” they saw this etched out red diamond track in the sky called the ‘Diamond Track.’ The maneuver calls for us to streak away from each other for about a mile and then turn 180 degrees and fly back toward each other crisscrossing in the sky. We had performed the maneuver more than fifty times without a mistake. This time was different. Rather than crisscrossing, we slammed into each other at a combined speed of 300 miles per hour. We collided in mid air at 150 miles her hour a piece. My partner veered off on one side. Believe it or not, one of his arms caught both of my legs and sheered them off in mid air.”
Although his partner instantly died, Dana didn’t remember what had happened until his teammates visited with him in the hospital several days later. Aside from telling him about his partner’s death, they also told Dana about his severed legs.
“When we’re in bed, we don’t look down to see our feet underneath the covers. What an eerie feeling—my feet were gone. There was nothing there! My whole life changed forever. Just three months before the accident, I was married. While in the hospital, my wife left me. Everything came tumbling down on top of me.”
While in his hospital bed, the special-forces soldier was at a total loss. He didn’t know what to do with his life.
“I had lost hope! Aside from the loss of my legs, I stuttered for four months after the accident. People looked at me in a different way. Now, I’m the guy in the wheelchair without legs I was on the ranger team, sniper team and scuba team. I had everything. I was on top of the mountain! Now, the military had paperwork for me to sign letting the Veteran’s Administration take care of me. I didn’t know what to do.”
Moved by perseverance and the power of the human spirit, Dana didn’t sit still. Just nine months after the mid-air tragedy, the seasoned parachutist made history.
“I was in rehab at Walter Reed Medical Center where many of the soldiers who were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are being treated. While there, I set a precedent by being the first double amputee to re-enlist in the United States Armed Forces in front of God and country. I even skydived on my prosthetic legs into the re-enlistment ceremony. I’ve been given a chance to inspire others with disabilities. Through my visits to hospitals and my presentations, I try to bring hope to people who are going through tough times. I tell them—no matter what happens, we can prevail. Anything that comes our way, any tragedy that befalls us—we are capable of overcoming it. That doesn’t mean it will always be easy. We need to be strong in our faith and in ourselves. You may not believe that you can overcome it. You may doubt your own strength to prevail. But, believe me God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”