NBS Outdoor Fall Issue 2020

ago, he decided to create his own organization for helping wounded veterans, the HALO for Freedom Warrior Foundation. At his first event, he flew in six veterans. They started with a machine gun shoot. “Then we rode horses and did hog hunting at night, and it was fellowship,” he said. “I think it cost me $12,000. I raised the money from the local bank and from people who believed in me.” Over the next several years, HALO for Freedom Warrior Foundation’s annual event evolved into an annual Weekend to Remember. Each year, 50 warriors join for a weekend of fun and fellowship. “We invite veterans from World War II and Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, you name it,” Bowman said. “They don't have to be disabled. If you were in the military and I pick you to be one of the troops that are going to come in here, we're going to give you a great time. One of the big things is fellowshipping with people from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.” The list of warriors who come encompasses a wide range of veterans. One year, Bowman said, he had 18 Medal of Honor recipients at the Weekend to Remember. “I’ve had astronauts,” he said. “I’ve had prisoners of war from the Hanoi Hilton. I've had people who tested out the mercury suits for NASA in the 1960s. I've had Navy SEALs that have been on TV or written books. The list goes on and on.” Seventeen years in, the Weekend To Remember costs about $250,000 to pull off. “We do helicopter hog hunting, helicopter target shooting, helicopter rappelling from 200 feet,” Bowman said. “We do a 3-Gun shoot. We do demolition where we blow stuff up. We do

my prime. I fought to stay in. Five months after my accident, I snuck out of the hospital and made my first jump back in Fort Bragg, N.C. with some Golden Knights. That convinced them I could still jump being a double amputee.” Nine months after his accident, Bowman became the first double amputee to return to active duty with the Golden Knights, where he stayed until left the military in 1996. Once he was out, Bowman wasn’t content to sit still in civilian life. He earned a commercial aviation degree from the University of North Dakota in 2000. He flew private aircraft, helicopters, seaplanes, and hot air balloons. And he kept on jumping out of airplanes. “It was tough,” he said. “It was just like joining the military. I had to start all over again and convince people I could do it. I ended up being the world’s first double amputee helicopter instructor. Bowman married, and in 2000 he and his family moved to Texas. People kept asking

Bowman how he had done what he did, and what his story was. So many people asked that he became a motivational speaker. And still, he kept jumping out of airplanes. “I continued speaking, jumping, and doing whatever I could do to help others,” he said. “I jumped into about 30 schools in this area in Texas for free, teaching kids about tragedies, accidents, and how to overcome them with drive and determination.” Over time Bowman honed his presentations to resonate with different groups. “I have different presentations on motivation and inspiration and disabilities,” he said. “I appeal to the disabled world, I appeal to pilots, I appeal to the military and to first responders.” In fact, he appeals to just about everyone who appreciates a heroic story about overcoming impossible odds. Bowman continued to jump into special events and give motivational talks, many of those events for wounded warriors and other veterans. Seventeen years

52 • NBS OUTDOOR • Fall 2020

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