NFL legend looks to help Army tackle behavioral health stigma
February 7, 2012
FORT BLISS, Texas, (Fort Bliss, Texas -- NFL legend. Heisman Trophy winner. Named as the best running back in college football history by ESPN. These all describe Herschel Walker, best known as a running back for the Dallas Cowboys. However, many people may not know that there are other sides to Walker.
Walker was recently on Fort Bliss to visit Soldiers and their families, as well as to help spread a message. That message was plain and simple. There is no shame in seeking help.
Walker suffers from what is known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID. It is more commonly known as multiple personality disorder.
"Sometimes we forget just how tough life really is," said Walker. "Sometimes we think that life is roses. I am here to tell you in a rosebush, there are a lot of thorns."
Walker was not diagnosed with DID until after his playing days were over. Once he received the diagnosis, he knew it was important to himself and his family to seek help. Now he is hoping to spread that message to more out there.
Walker began his visit by speaking with the Wounded Warriors of the Warrior Transition Battalion. After sharing the story of what he has had to overcome in his life, he posed for pictures and autographs.
"I love coming to places like this," Walker told the Wounded Warriors. "All I have done is play a little football game. I am really jealous of you guys."
Walker even shared that he has had other behavioral health issues in his family. He had a nephew who served in Afghanistan, Sean, who he saw a change in after he returned.
"He wasn't the same Sean I knew before he left," said Walker. "When he came back, you could see that he was different. What he went through is something I will never see. Whatever it is that he is going through, I want to help him."
Walker continued his day by visiting Freedom Crossing to sign more autographs and take pictures with Soldiers and their families. He then continued to William Beaumont Army Medical Center, where he visited staff and patients.
Walkers visit was very welcome by the command at the WTB.
"It is huge to have a celebrity come forward to admit something like this," said Lt. Col. William M. Gazis, commander of the Warrior Transition Battalion. "Usually if they are in the public eye, they may try to hide it."
"For Soldiers to hear him talk, makes them understand that, if he can do it, so can I. It lets our Soldiers know that they can recover from seeking behavioral health help. It shows they can do anything they want to do."
The top noncommissioned officer in the battalion agreed.
"The majority of people view celebrities as iconic," said Command Sgt. Maj. Marlo V. Cross, the command sergeant major of the battalion. "We forget that they are just people. We each have challenges that we have to deal with every day."
The hope is that this will all be a moot point in the coming years, said Cross.
"Fort Bliss has done a great job with the behavioral health issue," continued Cross. "If we, as leaders, continue to aggressively embrace this issue, our Soldiers will continue to feel as though they are part of the Army family."
Walker hopes to continue to visit Fort Bliss in the future to ensure that those who need it seek the help that they need.
"I love the military," said Walker. "No matter what it is, whatever it is that you are going through, there is help out there."