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News | Oct. 24, 2017

Distribution Multicultural committee celebrates Disability Awareness Month

By DLA Distribution Public Affairs

DLA Distribution’s Multicultural Committee celebrated the true spirit and the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities with a program held on Wednesday, Oct. 18. This year’s theme is “Inclusion Drives Innovation.”

To start the event, a video version of the national anthem was played. The video displayed the song being “sung” in American Sign Language with closed captions on the bottom of the screen. The purpose of this performance was for the average listener to experience the national song the way a deaf person would experience it. 

DLA Distribution deputy commander, Twila C. Gonzales, Senior Executive Service welcomed everyone in attendance and gave a brief synopsis on the history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month before introducing the keynote speaker, U. S. Army Sgt. 1st Class retired, Dana Bowman, a Golden Knight and the first double amputee to re-enlist in the Army.

“Dana Bowman’s story is really a story of the triumph of the human spirit,” said Gonzales.

Bowman, who enlisted in the Army at the age of 18 years old, as a heavy materials operator, and worked his way to become a Special Forces Soldier and a member the Army’s elite parachute team, the Golden Knights. 

On Feb. 6, 1994, Bowman and his teammate Army Sgt. Jose Aguillon collided midair during the team’s annual training. They had demonstrated the “Diamond Track” maneuver more than fifty times without mistake. This time, 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.

Nine months after the accident Bowman was about to turn his tragedy into triumph when he became the first double amputee to re-enlist in the United States Army. He also continued his jumps, practicing with nine jumps a day, five days a week. “I went through many prosthetic legs.”

Bowman retired from the Army in 1996, and now spends a majority of his time working with other amputees and disabled, or physically challenged veterans.  

“I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to let my speeches touch so many from the physically challenged to the able-bodied,” said Bowman.

Following his presentation, Bowman presented DLA Distribution Susquehanna, Pennsylvania commander, Army Col. Brad Eungard a challenge coin, and his personal “Halo for Freedom” coin to Gonzales. 

Additionally, Mason Chronister, management assistant from Distributions Organizational Management directorate, provided an American Sign Language demonstration. 

Chronister, who was born deaf to hearing parents, has Usher Syndrome. A relatively rare genetic disorder, Usher Syndrome results in a combination of hearing loss and visual impairment. About four people in every 100,000 are diagnosed with the incurable condition.