By Ryan Maye Handy
January 15, 2016
Kenny Bower stood on a steep, grassy hillside overlooking the Waldo Canyon burn scar with his ear cocked toward his radio.
The 2016 Winter Colorado Wildland Fire and Incident Management Academy (CWFIMA) has been holding a weeklong class in Colorado Springs. A group of the first-time firefighters spent the afternoon on a grass hill behind UCCS knocking down an imaginary fire on Wednesday, January 13, 2016. Kenny Bower, a Fort Carson soldier who had several severe injuries while serving in Afghanistan, mans the radio for his group during the class. He wants to fight fires to honor a friend of his who a member of the Granite Mountain hotshot crew, who was killed in 2013 along with 18 others. Photo by Jerilee Bennett/The GazetteHis firefighting tool was still by his side while he listened to the transmission - winds were picking up, humidity was dropping and nearby trees were starting to ignite. He called out the warning to his crew and bent back to his work cutting a line into the dirt up the hill.
The fire burning a slope behind the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs was make-believe as part of a weeklong wildfire training program at the university.
But Bower, a former Fort Carson sergeant and combat veteran with two Purple Hearts who gave up a 12-year military career to become a firefighter, is the real deal.
Watching him swing a tool, it'd be hard to guess that the jocular and smiling Bower, 31, was left paralyzed from the neck down after a bomb blast in Afghanistan. It'd also be hard to guess that he's missing a chunk of his left calf muscle and that his body is riddled with shrapnel.
His recovery from two severe injuries during three deployments to Afghanistan comes down to willpower, Bower said.
"I try to never let it get to me," he said Wednesday.
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