Thursday, February 20, 2014

Texas morns the passing of David A. Fowler

David A. Fowler was an American patriot and US Army veteran whose life of service did much to make Texas, the nation, and  the world a better place. His work will be forever remembered, and he will be  sorely missed.

David A. Fowler served on the Texas Governor's Office Committee on People with Disabilities.

Pundits and activists on both sides of the aisle like to point fingers accusing the other side of not caring about disabled people. The reality in Texas is this is not true of either side, in aggregate. Certainly there may be individuals on each side who don't prioritize issues related  to the disabled as heavily as others. But looking at the big picture, across the spectrum, the facts show equal compassion on both sides.

The Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities is one example of bipartisan efforts to improve the quality of life and opportunities for prosperity for disabled persons. The current Attorney General, who is running for Governor this year, is another example. State senators such as Leticia Van de Putte demonstrate more empathy. Regardless of her political motivations, Van de Putte did sponsor key bills directed at providing better opportunities for disabled veterans, in particular.

David A. Fowler worked seemingly tirelessly both as a committee member and with various non-profit organizations to better the quality of life and provide better opportunities for prosperity to disabled persons.

Fowler's extensive work and history as both a Soldier and as an activist working towards those goals is best summarized in the press release from Governor Rick Perry's office. It is with humble hearts and deep sadness that the press release is presented in its entirety below:

The Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities is deeply saddened by the recent loss of our long-time Committee member  and friend, David Fowler.  David was an insightful and passionate disability leader in Texas and nationally.  David died this past weekend from complications from a respiratory illness.

David A. Fowler was a retired U.S. Army Veteran who served as the National Vice President for the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the President of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Texas Chapter. He previously served as the Vice President and Advocacy Director of the Texas Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America and as a Commissioner on the Houston Commission on Disabilities. He was a member the Disabled American Veterans and the Army 82nd Airborne Division Association. Mr. Fowler attended Houston Community College.

David was admired by all who knew him for his powerful commitment to full inclusion and participation for people with disabilities, especially veterans with disabilities. David championed legislation for veterans with disabilities that led to improved access to services and programs in Texas and nationally for veterans with disabilities. 

David had been involved with Paralyzed Veterans of American for over 20 years.  He believed in “paying it forward” and devoted his life to mentoring and advocating for veterans who are paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury.

David enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.  In 1984, he was injured in a diving accident which resulted in quadriplegia.  His accident occurred before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act; however, the passage of the ADA, in which Paralyzed Veterans played an instrumental role, ensured that all individuals with disabilities would be given equal rights and opportunities. David often educated the public that the ADA opened opportunities for full participation in all areas of public life. David said,  “[Going] to a movie without being told that I was a fire hazard, being able to go into the front door of a restaurant [and] being able to go back to work” are just some of the many benefits that he experienced. “It was like the world was finally welcoming us,” he said.

David participated in a variety of adaptive sports.  He was an active participant in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) in 1991 and used adaptive equipment to bowl, according to David, “better than he could before he was injured.”  In 20 years, David never missed the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in which he competed in power soccer, slalom, wheelchair races and power relay events.  After attending his first Games, Fowler was seized with thoughts of, “If I can do this, what else can I do?”  He thought, “How can I pay back this organization that is improving my life?” David was a featured athlete on the General Mills Cheerios box sold in military markets as the Gold Medal winner of the 2007 National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

In 1991, he became actively involved in the Texas Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America (TPVA) in many capacities, including service as advocacy director, vice president, president and national director. Fowler also served on several committees for Paralyzed Veterans of America, including the Field Advisory Committee. Over the years he was an ardent leader for PVA.  At the urging of many veterans, and with the support of his wife, Marilou, he was elected as Paralyzed Veterans’ national vice president in October 2011. “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,” he said. “I’m paying it forward for the next guys coming behind us, just like the people 27 years ago did for me.”

David was appointed by Governor Rick Perry in December of 2006 to the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD).  David was an active and influential member of GCPD, including making policy recommendations to the Governor and Legislature related to veterans services in Texas.  David also served as an advocate on the United/Continental Accessible Travel Advisory Board, helping the travel industry understand the unique issues related to air travel for people with disabilities.

Fowler was involved in his local community by serving on the Houston Commission on Disabilities and other committees that had input regarding accessibility in the local stadiums and the Metrorail transit system.

Our thoughts, prayers and sincere gratitude go out to David’s family at this difficult time, especially David’s wife, Marilou, who has been his steadfast partner and best friend throughout his life. 

In lieu of flowers, a memorial endowment fund has been set up through the National Paralyzed Veterans of America. The David Fowler Memorial Endowment will assist in educating clinicians about spinal cord injury, researching better care and assisting Veterans with satisfying careers.

Memorial Donations can be sent to Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), David Fowler Memorial, 801 Eighteenth Street, NW Washington, DC 20006-3517  (www.pva.org).

Mr. Fowler, some day we'll meet in the Elysian fields of The Fiddler's Green. We'll drink a toast to Gary Owen punctuated by two words:  "Hooah! Airborne!".

"To us and those like us -- damned few left"