By Mike Strasser, Fort Lee Public Affairs OfficeApril 30, 2008
Fort Lee, Va. (May 1, 2008) -- Fort Lee's ranking spiritual leader recently took a trip back to his glory days.
Chaplain (Col.) James Walker, installation chaplain, returned to South Carolina State University for his induction into the school's Reserve Officers Training Corps Hall of Fame April 18.
Walker said ROTC provided him direction when his goal of playing professional football was no longer possible. Walker played tailback and fullback for the S.C. State Bulldogs, and was selected as offensive captain of the 1976 squad that finished 10-1. Walking back onto the playing field of his alma mater more than a decade later was an emotional one, Walker said.
"The first place I went was to the football field, and thought about how we used to practice and all the things the coaches would say to motivate us," said Walker. "It was good to reminisce again."
Walker was a walk-on player his freshman year, before earning an athletic scholarship and an ROTC scholarship. He realized he didn't have the right skills pro scouts were looking for, and decided to pursue a military career.
"God reminds me all the time in Jeremiah 29:13, 'For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,'" said Walker. "So it was still an honor to be looked at, and I was honored that the coaches saw the skill and leadership in me to name me captain."
Walker said the school's ROTC program was rigorous and mentally challenging.
"You were part of a great reputation of students who became officers," Walker said, "but on the other side of it, you had your classmates who made fun of you with the uniform on. Especially during drills, they would come up to the fence while we were drilling and try to make us laugh. If we were at the position of attention, they would try to distract us."
The jokes weren't malicious, but all in good fun, Walker said, and some of his colleagues admired the choice he made.
"The benefit of it was I knew it would provide me discipline, a career and the financial means to support myself," said Walker.
Walker said the induction was humbling, because he joined a list of Hall of Famers who includes some of his own mentors.
"It touched me in the sense that the Lord has blessed me as a chaplain," said Walker. "The word of God says 'to whom much is given, much is required,' so going back to the school that gave me so much made me realize that I should give back and try to help some of those students the way my mentors had done."
Walker said his position on Fort Lee allows him to support the ROTC program as a connection between Soldiers and community members.
"There are many Soldiers here who are S.C. State graduates, and I encourage them to talk to students and talk to other Soldiers who are going to college," said Walker. "My beliefs are all about serving others, and in the capacity of an officer, a preacher, a chaplain and a counselor, it is with this honor that I've been given to inspire others to find their way, as I had mine."