News>Herschel Walker takes part in Holloman’s ‘Resiliency Day’
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Herschel Walker, former National Football League running back and current Strikeforce Mixed Martial Arts heavyweight fighter, speaks to Airmen at the Domenici Fitness and Sports Center Aug. 19, 2011, about his life and the challenges he has overcome to be successful. Walker was open about his struggle with dissociative identity disorder and how his life changed for the better after getting the proper medical care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman DeAndre Curtiss/Released)
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- U.S. Air Force Col. David Krumm, 49th Wing commander, presents Herschel Walker, former National Football League running back and current Strikeforce Mixed Martial Arts fighter, with coins from different squadrons of the 49th Wing and a photo taken of Walker in front of a MQ-9 Reaper from his tour of the 29th Attack Squadron Aug. 19, 2011, at the Domenici Fitness and Sports Center. The gifts were presented to Walker as a thank you for his time spent visiting the base and talking to the Airmen about his life and how he was able to persevere through the struggle of having dissociative identity disorder. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman DeAndre Curtiss/Released)
by Airman 1st Class Siuta B. Ika
49th Wing Public Affairs
8/24/2011 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- For many Air Force members, seeking help for a mental problem is on the end of or non-existent on a self work order for personal well being. Many do not seek help because they fear it will have a negative impact on their careers or social standing.
To combat this stigma, Holloman hosted a special guest to speak to Airmen about overcoming this hurdle during the base's 'Resiliency Day.'
"People know me as the Dallas Cowboy, Philadelphia Eagle, Minnesota Viking, New York Giant, New Jersey General, Olympic team (member) and all this stuff," said Herschel Walker, former National Football League running back and current Strikeforce Mixed Martial Arts heavyweight fighter. "I'm not just a Heisman Trophy winner or football player. I'm a guy who was suffering from some sort of mental illness that (before I got help) I didn't know what it was."
Walker, who has lived most of his life without knowing he had a condition known as dissociative identity disorder, or multiple personality disorder, discussed the difficulties of living with his mental condition.
"When I found out I had DID, I had no idea about what was happening to me," he said. "Everything was going well, I was running a business and I was getting out of football, but I had an anger problem for no reason. My wife would tell me all these terrible things that I would say to her that I didn't ever remember saying. I realize now I could have killed my wife, that's how bad it got."
Walker's anger was not just limited to other people, he often took it out on himself, he said.
"My game of choice was Russian Roulette," Walker said. "Guys would come over to my house and challenge me and I would take my gun out, spin the bullet in the chamber and say let's go. They would walk off and I would pick it up, put it to my head and pull the trigger. I didn't realize how far lost I was."
As it often darkens before dawn, Walker then knew he needed help. After trying different methods of dealing with his condition, he finally found a doctor who diagnosed his condition and began receiving treatment.
He admits that even after he had begun to receive treatment, his life did not get any easier.
"When some of my friends learned I had a mental illness they walked away from me like it was contagious," Walker said. "Things definitely got harder, but I never gave up -- I remained resilient."
In light of some of Holloman's recent losses, base leadership has made it a primary focus to target resiliency in Airmen.
"We need to highlight the importance and embrace the importance of being resilient and supporting one another," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jennifer Agulto, 49th Medical Operations Squadron commander. "Holloman has had some struggles and challenges recently in resiliency and we're dealing with unfortunate deaths by suicide. It's uncomfortable but we need to address it and we need to talk about it."
Remaining resilient is harder for military members than normal civilians, acknowledged Walker.
"What they have to see, what they have to do is something you don't have to do in a normal life," he said about military members. "They may have been shot at or seen a buddy get injured or saw something they wished they didn't have to see. So now, they're going home to a loving spouse and loving kids and they're going 'how relevant is this? I just came back from this high-intensity area and coming back home, everyone's expecting me to be the person I used to be, but I'm not that anymore.'"
However, suicide should not be an answer, Walker said.
"Sometimes we get so down in whatever is happening to us that we don't think we have any hope," he said. "No matter what you are going through, you can't give up. I tell guys all the time you have to believe in yourself and love yourself enough to say 'one more round,' no matter what you are going through. You've got to know that you can overcome anything."
For those contemplating seeking mental help, the time is now, Walker continued.
"You have to get help -- you're not just helping yourself, your helping your family members because you don't know what your actions could do to them," he said. "I admitted I had a problem. I put a gun to my head and I did all of those things and it's been out there in the open, but I'm still here today. I'm free now. Today I can say I love myself, today I can sleep at night."
Also, for those seeking mental help but fear possible retribution, there are many outlets to go about receiving the help needed, said Agulto.
"The Mental Health office offers chaplains, psychiatrists, a marriage and family life counselor, Military OneSource is available with referrals, no questions asked, and the National Suicide Hotline which is 100 percent confidential and can be called anytime," she said. "Getting help is not a sign of weakness, it is not a sign of illness, it's a condition that can be treated and treated successfully to regain a positive life for years to come."
For those who see people in need of help, don't be afraid to offer a helping hand or simply talk to them, Walker said.
"Whatever's happening to you, a loved one or friend, if you see something is wrong, talk to them about it," he said. "You will help them because I wouldn't have made it if it wasn't for those people in my life that stayed with me through everything. Don't be ashamed to be a friend; don't be ashamed to ask for help. I did and I'm not less of a man and to be honest, I'm better now."
Before departing the base, Walker shared one last thought about resiliency.
"Sometimes we forget about what has been given to us and all we see is all the negative things and it makes us forget we are blessed," he said. "We're not promised where we're going to be. We're not promised tomorrow, but we are promised where we are at right now. There is a lot of support and resources available here."
For more information about the Mental Health clinic, call their office at 575-572-5676.