By Senior Airman Stuart Bright
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Herschel Walker, former NFL running back, signs an autograph for Dreshawn Murray, 2nd Bomb Wing public affairs specialist, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Oct. 15, 2018. Airmen brought footballs and other memorabilia for Walkerto sign. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)
Herschel Walker, former NFL running back, signs a football at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Oct. 15, 2018. Airmen brought footballs and other memorabilia for Walker to sign. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)
Herschel Walker, former NFL running back, speaks to the Airmen about his battle with dissociative identity disorder at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Oct. 15, 2018. Apart from talking about his experiences with mental health, Walker talked about his football career with the Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)
His presence could be felt as soon as he stepped into the conference room in the 2nd Medical Group. His smile was ear to ear as he greeted everyone, being sure to shake their hands.
As he signed autographs and posed for photographs, Herschel Walker began football talk. The former running back from the University of Georgia and NFL gave his insight about the past weekend’s games and what he thinks of the season to come.
However, Walker did not visit Barksdale to talk about football with Airmen. He came to spread awareness about the importance of mental health and to not be ashamed to ask for help.
“I’ve traveled to so many different bases all over the world talking about trying to remove that stigma of mental health,” the former Heisman Trophy winner said. “It’s sad that people think of mental health as bad.”
Before telling his story, Walker expressed his gratitude for U.S. service members. Back in high school, he almost decided to walk away from football and join the military. Placing his future in a coin flip, he ended up signing with the University of Georgia instead.
“Going to a base I just want to thank everyone for what they do,” Walker said. “We owe so much to the men and women in the service. There is no such thing as winning or losing to them. If they lose they die.”
From his childhood, to his football days and after, Walker suffered internally. While he was performing on the field, outside of the game he would act unusual. Walker’s emotions caused him to become angered and think about violence.
“When I was small I was bullied,” Walker said. “I didn’t like myself. I soon said ‘enough is enough’ and created this invincible person who could do these incredible things, athletically and academically.”
Walker said at times he had trouble dealing with his emotions and it effected his life at home with family and was eventually convinced by his ex-wife to seek help. After a meeting with a pastor, he was recommended to seek professional assistance in addition to prayer. He was soon diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, which includes symptoms such as having the presence of one or more personalities that have their own unique characteristics and began treatment.
“People think just because you go to a hospital you’re weak,” Walker said. “Being in the military or a police officer you have to be these tough men or women. I’m just as tough as I’ve always been, maybe even tougher. Knowing your weakness will make you stronger.”
Now, Walker wants to spread his message to service members in the U.S. military, traveling to different installations around the DOD telling his story.
“There is no shame in asking for help, I did it,” Walker said. “If I can do it, you can do it. But it’s not going to be easy, but life isn’t easy.”
Airmen waited in line to get an autograph from the former running back before and after he spoke about his career and message on mental health.
“It’s absolutely incredible to have someone like Herschel,” said Senior Airman Steven Arthur, 2nd MDG medical laboratory technician. “Just to now have a leader out there that’s really pushing it forward is amazing.”
The 2nd MDG Mental Health can be reached at 456-6600. Other resources on base Airmen can turn to for help include Airman and Family Readiness Center, Military One Source and the chapel.