By U.S. ArmyFebruary 8, 2018
The official part of Walker's visit centered on a cause near and dear to his heart, Universal Health Services/The Patriot Support Program's Anti-Stigma Campaign, which at its center, believes "treatment begins when a service member asks for help." Walker came to help dispel the stigma of seeking help for mental illness and substance abuse and spoke about how to be resilient in the face of crisis. As a part of his visit to Winn, Walker took a windshield tour of parts of Stewart, with stops at the MEDDAC Behavioral Health clinics, where he was well received.
"I was happy to see all the clinics," Walker said. "I was very impressed. That's one thing, and I've been saying it forever, that the military life is a whole lot more advance than the civilian life in regards to behavioral health. I wanted to thank them [the Soldiers]. I don't think they get enough thanks from what they do for this country. This is the best country in the world, and it's because of them."
Winn ACH Infection Prevention and Control Specialist and longtime Walker fan, Stephanie Deloach, said meeting Walker captivated her.
"He is a legend, with humble roots and a strong work ethic, which are only amplified by his amazing athletic ability," Deloach said. "He had me mesmerized at the early age of nine; a little South Georgia girl simply fascinated with his grit and determination to move an oval ball 100 yards to score, and no one did that better than Mr. Herschel Walker. Thirty-six years later, I got the chance to meet the figment of my fascination, the very one that ignited my love for college football, and he did not disappoint."
Winn ACH's Cynthia Wilkinson, risk management administration assistant, who grew up watching sport with her father, said it was an honor to meet Walker and shared her message to him.
"Thank you to Mr. Walker for supporting our troops and sharing your life story... amazing," Wilkinson said. When I found out Herschel Walker was coming, boy did I get excited! One of the greatest, here at Winn! I got my footballs to be signed and sure enough got me a big ole' Georgia Hug! [I am] so grateful and thankful he came and shared his story."
Other than his football prowess on the field, his anti-stigma lecture to Winn and at Hunter Army Airfield during his two-day visit, he focused on the positive side of seeking help. Walker said many people turned away from him when he decided to address his battle with Dissociative Identity Disorder.
"Friends that I've helped so much, they shunned me, and they wouldn't even talk to me," Walker said. "They were afraid of me. But, I went ahead and I felt so much better, I feel more peaceful. I mean to sleep at night in peace not pacing the floor, not having someone I love be afraid of me, and it's so much relief, so much pressure is off of me now and I feel so much better."
Walker said if others are having similar thoughts like he had of taking their own life, the action is unnecessary. He explained the first step may be difficult because of being a 'warrior'.
"There are people out there that can help you," Walker said. "Sometimes when you get at that point you're thinking that you're all alone; you're thinking that there's no one that can help you, but I'm living proof, because I've been there."
He challenged leaders to continue to be involved with those who they are leading, by encouraging those below them to look out for one another too. Walker also stressed the importance of erasing the stigma behind seeking help for mental health. As he stood in Winn's Patriot Auditorium, willingly signing autograph after autograph, his message to Soldiers and Civilians stayed constant.
"I think for all our young men and women of service remember that no matter how hard it gets, there's people that can help you," Walker said. "No matter how tough it gets, that you got to get up! That you got to know that when you get knocked down, it's ok to be down for a little while, but you get back up."
And he wants all to know the importance of seeking support.
"There is no shame in asking for help, I did," Walker said.