There are those who served and after their service, they built or rebuilt a life. All gave some. Some gave all. Then there are those who not only served, but also continue to remember the service of others. They are the visionaries whose efforts offer us a glimpse into the warriors’ hearts. Stephen David Bowers (1949-2020) was one of those chosen and accepted his calling. He listened to the sound of the Seminole Wind and followed its course with honor.
Stephen grew up on the Seminole Hollywood Reservation. He was a natural-born athlete. He lettered in wrestling and football at McArthur High School. His team (Dania Optimist) had three undefeated seasons. He became an inductee into the Seminole Sports Hall of Fame on February 7, 2006. After high school he attended Broward Community College.
Stephen D. Bowers was inducted into the United States Army on May 13, 1969. The following statement exemplifies his service. “Stephen, after attending Infantry Training School, NCO School, Airborne School, departed for Southeast Asia (Vietnam). Stephen was attached to the Company “A” 1st Battalion (Airborne) 503rd Infantry 173rd Airborne Brigade Vietnam, stationed at LZ Uplift and LZ English as well as Base Camp Long Binh Vietnam.” While on active duty, he was called home due to the death of his father who died in a car accident. Based on the hardship, he was allowed to stay stateside to finish his tour and was discharged in 1971 from Ft. Stewart, Georgia, as a Sergeant (E5).
For his service, he received the following honors:
• National Defense Medal,
• Combat Infantry Badge,
• Vietnam Service Medal,
• Vietnam Campaign Medal with 3 Bronze service stars,
• Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm,
• Parachute Badge,
• M16 Sharpshooter Badge,
• Bronze Star for ground operations against enemy hostile forces 7th Day of December 1970.
Citation: “David Bowers, you distinguished yourself by outstanding services in connection with military operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam. You consistently manifested exemplary professionalism and initiative in obtaining outstanding results. Despite many adversities, you invariably perfumed your duties in a resolute and efficient manner. Your loyalty, diligence, and devotion to duty in combat were in keeping with the highest tradition of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States.”
Upon returning home, he knew what he had to do. He decided to give back and serve his people and he knew an education would serve him as well as his people. He attended Antioch School of Law and participated in the National Indian Paralegal Project out of Washington, D.C. He served as an aide to Senator James Abourezk. He continued his studies upon returning to Florida and enrolled in the University of Miami School of Continuing Studies.
He served the Seminole Nation and Veterans for over 40 years of selfless service to the Seminole Nation. He served as the Seminole Director of Veterans Affairs. He was president of the Florida Seminole Veterans Foundation. Seminole Tribal Liaison for the Florida Governor’s Council on Indian Affairs and Veteran Affairs. He served on the VVA’s Minority Affairs and Agent Orange/Dioxin Committees, founder of the American Indian Veterans Memorial Initiative. He became the voice of his people and worked diligently on establishing a statue honoring Native American Veterans. His work, along with his wife Elizabeth, set the stage for a statue to be set in Washington. He became an advocate for widows and orphans as well as any veteran needing assistance. He was a leader of the Seminole Tribe Color Guard and represented the tribe in the presentation of the colors throughout Indian Country, powwows, and other ceremonies. He was affectionately known as ‘The General.’
Marc McCabe, VVA’s National Service Officer to the Seminole Tribe paid homage to Stephen’s contributions with the following words: “Stephen was a dedicated Seminole Warrior, a father, a husband, and a friend of the veterans of all eras, but mostly Stephen was my friend for the past eleven years. It is with great sadness that we are here today to pay our respects to a strong Seminole warrior and veteran.”
About the author: Mr. Chaltas is a free lance writer who offers this tribute from his book entitled, "A Warrior’s Heart."