HOLLYWOOD — David Stephen Bowers lived a life full of service to the Seminole Tribe, Indian Country, the United States, veterans and his family.
From his highly regarded service for the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War to a lengthy career working for the Tribe to leading veteran causes to being a proud grandfather, he was often described by those who knew him as having an abundance of dedication and determination.
He last served the Tribe as its director of veterans affairs, a position he retired from in late May, just days before his passing on June 1 at age 71.
“Mr. Bowers diligently served the Seminole Tribe of Florida for 31 years in various positions, as well as providing his dedicated service to the United States Army. We appreciate his service and dedication, as he will be missed by all who knew him,” Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. said in a Tribal statement.
As a longtime member and a leader of the Seminole Tribe’s Color Guard, Mr. Bowers represented the Tribe in the presentation of colors at several events throughout Indian Country, including pow wows. His cousin Paul Bowers Sr. was part of the group during its early years that also included President Mitchell Cypress.
“We used to go all over the U.S. to pow wows,” Paul Bowers Sr. recalled. “We used to let [Stephen] be in charge of the whole deal. We called him ‘The General.”
Perhaps fittingly, in February of this year, “The General” was honored at the Seminole Tribe’s own pow wow.
“He’s one of the nicest, respectable gentleman I’ve ever met in Indian Country,” emcee Juaquin Hamilton told the audience during a ceremony on the floor of the pow wow where Mr. Bowers, in a wheelchair, was joined by his wife Elizabeth, sister Wanda Bowers, President Cypress and other Tribal representatives and friends.
During a powerfully poignant moment in the ceremony, a veteran who was participating in the pow wow approached Mr. Bowers, and before any words were exchanged, saluted him. Mr. Bowers, sporting a determined look, returned the salute before the men shook hands and talked.
As a national service officer to the Seminole Tribe, Marc McCabe, of the Bureau Chief of the Vietnam Veterans of America, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, worked closely with Mr. Bowers on veterans issues for the past 11 years.
“Stephen was a strong voice to advocate for all veterans in Florida and all Native American veterans nationwide, but especially veterans that served their country. He and others such as Billie Micco, Mitchell Cypress, Andrew Bowers helped establish the service officer program,” McCabe said.
Mr. Bowers’ entered the U.S. Army on May 13, 1969. McCabe provided details about Mr. Bowers’ impressive military 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.”
Mr. Bowers was awarded the following honors for his service:
• 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.
For his service, Mr. Bowers received a citation that read:
“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 Army.”
While serving in the Army, Mr. Bowers was called home due to the death of his father in an automobile accident. Mr. Bowers wanted to return to service in Vietnam after the funeral, but at the urging of his mother, he was able to stay stateside and was discharged in 1971 having ascended to the rank of Sergeant E-5.
McCabe said Mr. Bowers was an advocate for veterans, widows and orphans of the veterans of all eras, but specifically Vietnam.
“On behalf of the members of Vietnam Veterans of America Daytona Beach Chapter 1048 (VVA 1048), we send our sincere condolences to the Bowers family,” wrote Chapter President Rod Phillips in an online tribute. “Stephen, as I knew him, was a friend, a fellow Airborne Trooper, working together with the VVA Florida State Council for many years, he will be missed. God Bless you, Rest in Peace, see you on the other side. Airborne All the Way!”
In 2010, Mr. Bowers began a campaign to have a statue placed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to commemorate Native American veterans. Although the project didn’t specifically pan out at the desired location, the hard work put in by Mr. Bowers and his wife Elizabeth helped pave the way for the National Native American Veterans Memorial that Congress approved in 2013. The memorial is scheduled to open on Veterans Day this year in Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Elizabeth and Mr. Bowers’ sister Wanda are among the invitees.
Mr. Bowers served as president of the Florida Seminole Veterans Foundation Inc. and president of Vietnam Veterans of American, Chapter 23, Fort Lauderdale.
Before his successful military service, Mr. Bowers was an active student-athlete. He lettered in football and wrestling at McArthur High School, close to where he grew up on the Hollywood Reservation. As a youth, he was part of the powerful Dania Optimist football team that had three undefeated seasons. On Feb. 7, 2006, Mr. Bowers was inducted into the Seminole Sports Hall of Fame and his plaque is in a display case in the lobby of the Howard Tiger Recreation Center.
Mr. Bowers is survived by his wife Elizabeth; his daughters Jenice Anderson and Stephanie Bowers Hiatt; son-in-law Jon; and grandsons Tyler, Caleb and Lucas; his sister Wanda; his niece Christine and son-in-law Andrew, and grandniece Stella; and two Rez rescue cats, Scooter and Skyler.