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Thank You, David

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News April 2014

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) National Vice President David Fowler is being remembered and honored as someone who spent decades helping veterans in his home state of Texas and nationally.

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Fowler passed away Feb. 18, only a few days after the PVA national convention in Orlando, Fla. He had been battling a respiratory illness. Fowler was 53.

“David Fowler devoted his life to helping veterans who have spinal-cord injury or disease,” says Bill Lawson, national president of PVA. “He lived for 30 years after his injury and was an inspiration to us all — a perfect example that life does not end after serious injury. He will be deeply missed, and we will honor his memory by continuing to support our nation’s paralyzed veterans and ensure that they have what they need to thrive as David did.”

A Life of Service

Fowler began his life of service advocating on behalf of veterans and all people with disabilities in 1985, when he joined the Texas Chapter of PVA.

He worked in the construction field for several years after high school before joining the Army in 1983, where he immediately went into the 82nd Airborne Division. In 1984, he suffered a C-4/5 spinal-cord injury (SCI) that left him paralyzed from his shoulders down.


Shortly after his injury he began mentoring other SCI veterans with quality of life issues by serving as a “Peer Partner” through a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program. He was also a volunteer counselor serving veterans with new injuries in the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston.

In 1991, he became actively involved in the Texas Chapter of PVA, and over the years he became an ardent leader for the organization. Fowler was elected to the PVA Executive Committee and had served as a national vice president since 2011, a role he described as “very rewarding.”

Paying It Forward

In addition to his work with PVA, Fowler was a member of Disabled American Veterans, the 82nd Airborne Association and the United/Continental Accessible Travel Advisory Board, where he educated the travel industry to understand the unique issues related to air travel for people with disabilities.

In 2006, Fowler was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. He was an active and influential member, including making policy recommendations to the governor and legislature related to veterans services in Texas.

Fowler also served on the Houston Commission on Disabilities and other committees that addressed accessibility in local stadiums and the Metrorail transit system.

Talking about leadership, Fowler once said, “Even though the responsibilities come with a lot of trials and tribulations, the reward is great when you realize that you made an impact on someone’s life. I’m paying it forward for the next guys coming behind us, just like the people 27 years ago did for me.”

“What Else Can I Do?”

Despite the severity of his injury, Fowler participated in a variety of adaptive sports.

In 20 years, Fowler never missed the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) where he competed in power soccer, slalom, wheelchair races and power relay events. He also used adaptive equipment to bowl, which he said helped him perform “better than he could before he was injured.”

After attending his first NVWG, Fowler said, “If I can do this, what else can I do? How can I pay back this organization that is improving my life?”

In his spare time, Fowler also enjoyed hunting and fishing.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to David’s family at this difficult time, especially his wife, Marilou, who has been his steadfast partner and has become a member of the Paralyzed Veterans’ family,” says Homer Townsend, executive director of PVA.

The Fowler Fund

A memorial endowment fund has been set up through PVA.

The David Fowler Memorial Endowment will assist in educating clinicians about SCI, researching better care and assisting veterans with satisfying careers.

Memorial donations can be sent to Paralyzed Veterans of America, David Fowler Memorial, 801 18th St., NW, Washington, DC 20006-3517.

For more information, visit pva.org.

 

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Thank You, David

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