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Motivational speaker, skydiver to appear at Sturgis Rally

August 4, 2018

STURGIS — Dana Bowman, a retired soldier from Texas and double amputee, will bring his story of tragedy and triumph to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Bowman will skydive into Sturgis for the opening ceremony at 4 p.m. Friday and at other times during the week.

In 1994, while serving as a member of the U.S. Army’s elite parachute team, The Golden Knights, a mid- air collision cost Bowman both his legs.

Bowman and his teammate Sgt. Jose Aguillon, of San Antonio, Texas, were practicing a maneuver known as the diamond track. The maneuver calls for the jumpers to streak away from each other for about a mile and then turn 180-degrees and fly back toward one another, crisscrossing in the sky. The pair had demonstrated the maneuver more than 50 times without incident, but this time was different.

Rather than crisscrossing, the two skydivers slammed into each other at a combined speed of 350 mph.

“On the pass, my partner’s out-struck arm had caught both my legs,” Bowman said during a presentation in Belle Fourche schools in 2017. “I had both legs sheared off in mid-air — one above the knee, one below the knee.”

Bowman was taken to a hospital where doctors closed his leg wounds and stopped his internal bleeding.

Two days later, Bowman said he awoke in an Arizona hospital and learned that his teammate and friend had perished in the accident.

“Nothing would prepare me for a tragedy or accident like this,” he said.

Seven days later, Bowman attended his teammate’s funeral.

“To pay tribute to my teammate, my mentor, my friend,” he said. “One last final salute to my teammate.”

His determination in the Army, and now the civilian world, has earned him world-wide recognition as a motivational speaker and skydive demonstrator. Traveling the world, Bowman spreads his message, “It’s Not the Disability. It’s the Ability. Never Quit!”

He will share his message at a free presentation at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Sturgis Community Center, 1401 Lazelle St.

On Tuesday as part of the rally’s Military Appreciation Day, Josh Cellars is sponsoring a “Toast to Heroes” military appreciation event at which Bowman will appear.

Bowman’s jump will be followed by a celebration where attendees can write notes of appreciation to active duty service members, which Josh Cellars will deliver via Operation Gratitude.

Josh Cellars was created as a tribute to founder Joseph Carr’s father, Josh, who served as a volunteer firefighter and a soldier in the U.S. Army. First responder and military causes were close to Josh’s heart and remain important to the brand, says Josh Cellars spokesperson Keri Madonna.

The event coincides with Josh Cellars’ Summer of Heroes promotion: post a public #ToastToHeroes image to the Josh Cellars Facebook page before Aug. 31, paying tribute to a hero in your own life. Josh Cellars will donate $1 per post to the National Volunteer Fire Council and Operation Gratitude (up to $25,000 for each charity).

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