Memorial Day Service: Sunday’s High-Flying Honors
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
This year, Lake County Memorial Day Services have one BIG change that you’ll want to make note of and a really BIG surprise that you won’t want to miss.
Be advised, the annual event will take place on Sunday, May 24 instead of the traditional Memorial Day Monday. The decision to change the day of the event was primarily made to accommodate out of town attendees and speakers. In recent years, as the service has grown to include the Annual Killed In Action Motorcycle Ride, as well as a series of moving speakers and special tributes like the engraving ceremony, moving the service up a day allows people more flexibility in traveling up to Leadville and the opportunity for an overnight stay.
“This will be the first year, we’ll try having the service on Sunday, instead of Monday,” said Memorial Day ceremony organizer Brad Palmer. “There are many people who travel from out of state to attend the Lake County service. I know of a group of 7 people coming up from Albuquerque this year.”
The other BIG surprise will be an impressive skydiving jump into the Lake County Veterans Memorial by Dana Bowman, a double-amputee and Sgt. First Class with the U. S. Army (see full story below).
That’s when the Memorial Day Services will be held at the Lake County Veterans Memorial at Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville. It’s a moving – and brief – service, and certainly a good reminder of what the day is all about. The public is welcome and of course, so are the kids. There’s a lunch following the service at the Elks Lodge #236 at 123 W. 5th Street.
A full program is planned including Keynote Speaker Dana Bowman; Louetta Smith, Director of the Denver Veterans Memorial Day Tribute; and Leadville minister Bill Bland. Other local dignitaries, as well as the Leadville Elks Lodge #236 and the Veterans of Foreign War Two Mile High Post #859 will be there for the commemoration.
Sunday will start with 4th Annual Killed In Action Recognition Ride along Fallen Heroes Memorial Highway (between Leadville and Copper Mountain). Motorcyclists will ride from Silverthorne to Leadville, ending at the Lake County Veterans Memorial at Leadville’s Evergreen Cemetery. This event continues to grow this year the Sunday change could bring a sizeable group of cyclists making their way over Fremont Pass – what a sight to see! Donations of $10 a bike accepted, with proceeds benefiting the Memorial. Contact Brad Palmer 719-207-1380.
Killed in Action Recognition Ride 2013
Memorial Day is a time to honor those who died for the freedoms Americans enjoy. Come and show your gratitude for the sacrifices these heroes have made.
An Incredible Story of Spirit and Determination
Dana Bowman: “It’s not the disability, it’s the ability.”
Retired First Class Army Sergeant Dana Bowman has astounded the nation and the world with his drive, determination, and will to succeed. On Sunday, May 24, he will go one step further and skydive into the Lake County Memorial Day Services, a fete likely to leave attendees wide-eyed, as this double-amputee veteran lands with keen precession – every time.
Bowman was a Special Forces Soldier and a member of the U.S. Army’s elite parachute team, the Golden Knights. He lost his legs in an accident during the annual Golden Knights training in Yuma, Arizona, in 1994.
On February 6, 1994 Bowman gained worldwide attention when he and his teammate Sgt. Jose Aguillon collided in midair during the team’s annual training. Bowman and Aguillon 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 each other crisscrossing in the sky. Bowman and Aguillon had demonstrated the Diamond Track more than fifty times without a mistake, but this time was different.
Rather than crisscrossing, the two skydivers slammed into each other at a combined speed of 300 miles per hour. Aguillon died instantly. Bowman’s legs were severed from his body, one above the knee and one below the knee. Bowman’s parachute opened on impact. He was taken to a hospital in Phoenix where doctors closed his leg wounds and stopped his internal bleeding.
Nine months later, he turned this tragedy into a triumph when he became the first double amputee to re-enlist in the United States Army. Bowman re-enlisted in the United States Army airborne style, skydiving with his commander into the ceremony, making his dream a reality. This achievement is just one example of Bowman’s many successes under adverse circumstances.
After Bowman ‘s re-enlistment, he became the U.S. Parachute Team’s lead speaker and recruiting commander. Bowman has been fortunate to have the opportunity to let his speeches touch so many from the physically challenged to the able-bodied. He strives to show physically challenged people can still work and excel in today’s society and military. Bowman emphasizes the words amputee and uselessness are not synonymous.
Bowman has given more than 1000 speeches in the last few years and has been featured in magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Reader’s Digest, People and many more. There have also been numerous television programs, which focused on Bowman and his story. Some of the programs include: Dateline, A Current Affair, Real TV, NBC Person of the Week, Day and Date and Extra.
Bowman retired from the United States Army in 1996. He received his bachelor’s degree in commercial aviation from UNO Aerospace in Grand Forks, North Dakota in May of 2000. Bowman spends a great deal of his personal time working with other amputees and disabled or physically challenged people. He also spends time at different military hospitals helping the wounded soldiers during the current world situation. He enjoys visiting patients at numerous healthcare facilities while on the road speaking.