Written by Spc. Shawn Denham
PAO, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
Fort Campbell, KY – Oftentimes people feel alone in life due to circumstances beyond their control and Soldiers are not exempt from feelings of isolation, depression and despair. The Army encourages Soldiers and their families to seek proper medical help and attention when needed and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), offers assistance at all times, sometimes with the help from well-known celebrities.
Herschel Walker, former National Football League player who won the Heisman Trophy in 1982 and played for teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants, visited the Strike Brigade’s 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment at their headquarters at Fort Campbell, KY, September 28th.
Walker was invited to speak by the Top Guns’ command team following his presentation to the division as a whole at Wilson Theater. This marks the 34th visit Walker has made to military facilities across the country.
“I’m here today because I want to thank you for everything you do for me, for the country,” said Walker. “I owe you for everything.”
Walker spoke to the Soldiers about his experiences in seeking mental health assistance following some hard times in his life. For Walker, the process of recognizing he had a problem and looking to fix that problem changed his life for the better.
“I was angry a lot,” said Walker. “My wife told me I would threaten her. I didn’t remember any of the arguments or threats.”
Looking back through previous writings, Walker said he saw a pattern of aggression and blank spaces in his memory where he had no realization or recollection of his actions.
“I went to a mental hospital then,” Walker said. “I was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. At first I lied to everyone and told them that there was nothing wrong with me; I thought I was being tough. Then I realized I really needed help, this was serious. I opened up and really got help.”
Walker said the hospital helped stop his personal destructive behavior, such as playing Russian roulette with a loaded hand gun, fits of blinding rage and physically harming people around him.
Walker expressed his concern for the health and well being of today’s Soldiers within the battalion, knowing the Strike Brigade just returned from an intense deployment in southern Afghanistan.
“Some people have a misconception that admitting you have a problem and getting help means you are weak,” said Walker. “But it’s not. It shows you have internal strength to be able to identify the problem and get help. We all struggle in life, we all fall. It takes strength to get back up again.”
Walker’s message hit home to the Top Guns as they have suffered a recent loss and move forward preparing for another upcoming deployment
“His visit was definitely a morale boost,” said Spc. Christian Cheatham, an automated field artillery tactical data systems specialist with Battery B and a native of Cloverdale, IN. “After a recent suicide there are a lot of guys here who are feeling down about a lot of things. Today, I’m seeing some faces smiling who haven’t smiled in several days.”
Walker’s visit was a good reminder that people outside the military genuinely care about the welfare of the Soldiers, said Cheatham.
“This is actually what we’ve needed for a long time,” said 1st Sgt. Jimmy Sadler, first sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery and from Anderson, SC. “It’s good to have someone from outside the Army saying ‘if you need help, get help’. It reinforces the message we always tell our Soldiers.”
The Army is proactive by inviting speakers such as Walker to address the Soldiers and the support shown by the outside community, said Sadler.
Walker’s example shows that everyone has the ability to heal from invisible wounds if they take the opportunity and reach out for aid.