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Paratrooper Who Lost Legs Jumps Again

November 06, 1994| From Associated Press

FT. BRAGG, N.C. — A soldier who lost both legs in a parachuting accident astounded even the most gung-ho of the gung-ho when he re-enlisted for active duty, then jumped out of a plane again.

Sgt. 1st Class Dana Bowman took his oath Friday in a yellow and black airplane belonging to the Golden Knights parachute team at the base that is home to the Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division and the Green Berets.

Then the 32-year-old Ohio man shoved himself out the door, 10,000 feet up, and followed his comrades to the ground, nearly nine months after losing his legs in the accident that left a friend dead.

When Bowman landed, the wind ruffled his pants, exposing his metal legs. He took a few steps, sat down and helped himself up.

"Well, I did it," Bowman said after receiving kudos from a colonel and a three-star general at a ceremony. "I'm just glad to be here standing on my feet."

Bowman is the first double amputee to re-enlist and remain on active duty in the U.S. military, said Lt. Gen. Hugh Shelton, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps.

Bowman has been reassigned to the Golden Knights and may return to performing with the team, base spokesman Gene Sexton said. His drive and determination left no doubt the military would take him back, the spokesman said.

"When you can run two miles in less than 13 minutes on those legs, I don't think you're too disabled," Sexton said Saturday.

Bowman was eligible for 100% disability and could have quit the Army he had served for 13 years and drawn monthly checks for the rest of his life, Shelton said.

On Feb. 6, Bowman collided in the air at more than 100 m.p.h. with partner and friend Sgt. Jose Aquillon. Bowman's legs were severed, one above the knee and one below. Aquillon died of a heart attack after landing in a tree.

"They told me at the beginning it would be six weeks before I would get off my crutches," Bowman said. "It took me four days to get off my crutches. It took me a week to get off my cane.

"I thought the fastest way to get my balance back is to get rid of the cane. If I fall, I fall. I've had some good ones too. I broke a lot of (artificial) legs."

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