By Tim Cherry, Belvoir EagleOctober 4, 2012
FORT BELVOIR, VA--(Sept. 27) A former NFL running back and college football star shared his personal battle with Dissociative Identify Disorder during Fort Belvoir's Suicide Prevention Stand Down Day Sept. 27.
Herschel Walker, University of Georgia graduate, spoke to community members about recovering from anger issues, behavioral problems and depression in Fort Belvoir's Community Center. Walker urged audience members to think positive and to not be ashamed to ask for help.
Col. Gregory D. Gadson, Fort Belvoir garrison commander, lauded Walker for overcoming his problems and sharing his experiences to inspire Army personnel.
"He is just a tremendous man with a tremendous testimony," Gadson said.
Walker led the Georgia Bulldogs football team to a national championship in 1980 and he won the 1982 Heisman Trophy. He finished his college career with 5,097 yards and a 32-2 record.
Walker played in 12 professional seasons in the NFL with four different teams. He is 9th all-time in all-purpose yards and 36th all-time in career rushing yards, according to Pro-Football Reference.com.
Walker started displaying violent and unusual behavior after his playing career. He said he would frequently pace back and forth in his bedroom in the middle of the night with his wife laying feet away, considered shooting someone and claims to have played Russian roulette with a loaded gun.
Walker was suffering from a multiple personality illness called Dissociative Identity Disorder. He developed multiple personalities to suppress the trauma of being bullied during his childhood.
"As I was reading my writings as a 12 year old little boy, I talked about death all the time … I talked about killing people," said Walker, recalling this moment as the point when he realized he had a problem. "I was using football as my coping mechanism, like when someone uses alcohol or drugs as coping mechanisms. We don't want to deal with what's really going on."
Walker said he suppressed the bullying moment by developing a "tough guy" personas to protect him from further harm. He also developed additional personalities to handle the attention he received during his playing career. Medical treatment helped Walker overcome his multiple personalities. With his life turned around, the man who wanted to join the Marines in high school is serving his country as a motivational speaker. Walker has shared his story with servicemembers at more than 60 military installations across the U.S.
"Soldiers, they do so much for us civilians and I think when we can reach back to help them, that's something that we should do," Walker said.
His visit at Belvoir included a stop at the Warrior Transition Battalion where Lt. Col. Carl Curriera, WTB commander, discussed their operations and how the Soldiers live while assigned at Belvoir.
"What they do to help their wounded (Soldiers) is an absolute blessing," said Walker who loved his entire visit at Belvoir.
He also taught mixed martial arts fighting techniques to Soldiers in the Fort Belvoir Warrior Combatives Training Center.
Lt. Col. Brian Zarchin, Headquarters Battalion Commander, said Walker emphasized hard work, confident thinking and fun as keys to success for Soldiers carrying out missions.
He touched on these same keys during his speech in the Community Center.
Walker used several analogies and stories during his presentation. One involved a father who places horse manure into his son's room. The father is surprised to see his son, who always has a positive attitude, happily shoveling the manure out of his room.
The son tells his father that he's searching for a pony at the bottom of the pile. Walker said the message is to stay positive and a bad situation will become good.
Another analogy Walker used involved a person attempting to scare off a vampire with holy water and a cross. The vampire tells the person the tools won't work without faith.
"That's the way things are in our life. It's not going to work unless you have faith," Walker said. "You got to believe that you can overcome."
Walker said faith and positive thinking helped him overcome DID. He urged audience members to use these tools during bad situations and ask for help when necessary.
Doryan Dixon, Army Substance Abuse Program manager, believes Walker's speech provided a positive message for the Belvoir community on Suicide Stand Down Day.
"I think with the Soldiers, Families and civilians hearing the story of how he turned lemons into lemonade is something we can take a huge lesson from because we all have tough times, but we can't sulk in them," Dixon said. "We have to look at the positive side."
Suicide Stand Down Day increased suicide prevention awareness, and enhanced resiliency and health, to prevent future suicides in the Army.
In 2012 there have been 89 potential active-duty suicides, with 48 confirmed and 41 under investigation, according to a U.S. Department of Defense news release. The same release confirmed 165 total active-duty suicides since 2011.
"Suicide is a real issue for the Army, whether you have the uniform on or you don't. We've got to do a better job of taking care of each other," Gadson said. "We got to display the courage to get help or the courage to get somebody help."
Dixon, impressed by Walker's personable, open and compelling story, believes Walker provided additional words of wisdom for the community. She noted Walker's manure analogy as an example of positive thinking.
"You can either go in the room and sulk, and isolate yourself or you can put that energy into something positive," Dixon said. "If you have a positive attitude about it and keep digging you're going to find something good."
Walker concluded his speech by urging audience members to seize opportunities to get better.
"Let's not put off something that we can do right now," Walker said. "We're blessed and when we're blessed we can go do whatever we want. You got to tell yourself 'I love who I am.' Today I say, 'I love Herschel Walker.'"
For more information, contact Milagros Frank, Suicide Prevention Program Manager, at (703) 805-5529, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.