Jared Dowland, a 35-year-old native of Shelbyville and First Sergeant of 128th Signal Company, Belgium at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), was part of an Easter miracle Sunday in Belgium.
Dowland is the son of Jack and Annette Dowland of Pana and Susan and Tom Leonard of Mattoon. He also has two sisters: Nikki Sloan and Lindsey Keathly. He has served in the U.S. Army for 17 years.
Dowland and his family were on an outing in Jemappes Park just outside of Mons, Belgium, on Easter Sunday, April 20, when a commotion near the lagoon caught their attention.
His account of the events follow:
"We arrived at the park around 1330 (1:30 p.m.). This was the first time I had been to this park. It was very beautiful, and I was a bit upset with myself for not going to this park during my tour in Belgium. It had a small Chateau with a restaurant, a lagoon with gorgeous bridges, a fitness course, playground and it was open to fishing. As we walked toward the playground my family and I walked around the lagoon looking at the carp feeding along the banks. I was admiring the bushes and flowers which reminded me of The Labyrinth by the way they created a small maze.
My wife and I sat down on a picnic table as the boys ran for the playground. We had been there about five minutes when my wife got up to assist our two-year-old son, Jack, on the playground equipment. At that time a noticed a small commotion over my right shoulder about 50 meters away near the water. It appeared some people were goofing around next to the water. I noticed someone appeared to have water dripping from them, but paid it no more attention. I'm not sure how much time had passed, but my wife returned and looked behind me and said, "I think someone is hurt over there."