Special entertainment for the 85th Sheridan WYO Rodeo (The WYO) will reach new heights this year — 4,000 feet to be exact! That’s the altitude from which Dana Bowman, Sgt. First Class (retired), will parachute from an airplane to land in the Sheridan County Fairgrounds arena as part of the Grand Entry for each of the four evening performances. It promises to be an exciting start provided by quite an exceptional man.
It was Dana’s performance at a motorcycle rally in Red Lodge, Montana, that caught the attention of Kent Sherwood, owner of Sheridan Physical Therapy. Kent enthusiastically reported to several WYO Rodeo Board members on the spectacular and emotional performance he had seen and then generously offered to sponsor Dana if we could convince him to jump for the WYO Rodeo. The WYO Rodeo Board accepted Kent’s offer and together with Sheridan Physical Therapy and Sheridan Orthopaedics will sponsor the excitement and patriotism of Dana Bowman’s performance at every performance of the 85th celebration of the WYO Rodeo.
Dana Bowman is a skydiver, a retired member of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces and the Golden Knights. Remarkably, he is also a double amputee. He lost his legs in a parachuting accident in February 1994 in a training exercise with the Golden Knights. When Bowman collided mid-air with a teammate at a combined speed of 300 mph his left leg was severed below the knee; his right leg above the knee. The teammate died instantly, but for some unknown reason, Bowman’s parachute opened and he landed unconscious in a parking lot.
Bowman’s rehabilitation was miraculous, only because of his dogged determination to recover. In three days he was walking on prostheses; a feat it took most people with similar injuries at least six weeks to accomplish. In six weeks, he wore out four pairs of prostheses because of his punishing, self-imposed rehabilitation program. Bowman insisted on helping doctors design special prosthetics that allowed him to water ski, snow ski, scuba dive, bicycle and lead a full, active life. He went to the hospital’s brace and limb shop at night and built his own sockets, which join the remaining leg to the prosthesis. Bowman said, “I didn’t have all my life to wait for equipment.”
Five months after the accident, Bowman left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to go skydiving as part of a Golden Knights wedding ceremony. As he grew stronger, he became a cheerleader for other wounded soldiers. Nine months after the accident, he became the first double amputee to reenlist in the Army. Subsequently, he became the U. S. parachute team’s lead speaker and recruiting commander.
Bowman retired in 1996 after he made his last jump as a Golden Knight into the opening ceremonies of the Paralympic Games in Atlanta. In 2000, he became the first member of his family to earn a college degree and graduated with honors, earning a bachelor’s degree in commercial aviation. He presently is the only double amputee commercial helicopter pilot instructor in the world, as well as a commercial hot air balloon pilot.
Bowman has been featured in some impressive forums, including Reader’s Digest, People Magazine and Sports Illustrated. In addition, he has given more than 400 motivational speeches speaking to businesses, schools and community groups. His message is: “It’s not the Disability, It’s the Ability.”
Bowman will not be the first man to plummet from the heights to entertain a Sheridan WYO Rodeo crowd. The first was in 1936 when a daredevil stunt pilot named Captain F. F. Frakes crashed his airplane into a burning building especially built for the stunt on the back side of the fairgrounds. He was pulled from the wreckage and burning house with only minor injuries. Needless to say, this was a one-time event.
Another airborne event occurred in 1944, when the Sheridan WYO Rodeo was temporarily called the Bots Sots Stampede. Then, a Lt. Amos Little made a parachute jump and landed to great acclamation precisely in front of the grandstand.
There is no record of any other airborne entertainment in the ensuing 71 years so it’s about time we had some. That’s why the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Board of Directors is so proud to present such an outstanding individual as Bowman to the audience of the 85th annual Sheridan WYO Rodeo. Watch for his appearance from the sky right after the cannon fires and give him a Sheridan, Wyoming, welcome.
(Note: Bowman will speak at some community venues yet to be determined. For further information about him, see his website at www.danabowman.com.)
Tom Ringley is an emeritus member of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Board.