TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — Professional athlete and business owner, Herschel Walker came to Tyndall during the Comprehensive Airman Fitness day June 5 to talk about mental health.
“One of the reasons I am here is to thank all service men and women because they have done so much for me, also I want to make them aware of mental health,” Walker said. “It is sad that we are using this word ‘mental health’ like it is something bad. I want to remove that stigma and show people that I have spent time at a hospital and I don’t think I am mentally unhealthy at all.”
As a young boy, Walker grew up playing sports and eventually played collegiate football, where he became a legendary player and was awarded the Heisman Trophy in his third year of college. He then moved on to play professional football, spending more than a decade in the sport.
As a child he was bullied, overweight, had a speech impediment and had people tell him he was not worthy, and that is what Walker became to think of himself.
“I went through life ashamed of who I was, to a point where I decided I was going to become this superhero character, and that is what I became throughout my career,” he said. “What was strange about that was I never dealt with what bothered me way back then. When I got out of the game, I took that ‘superhero’ mentality and displayed it at home, and that was scary to see.”
This is when he realized that he had a problem and needed the courage to seek for help.
“At a point in my life, I had a tough time, but we all have tough times and we all have problems,” Walker said. “We think people are crazy when they have problems, but that is not true. Sometimes people just leave home with the wrong hat on, so they need someone to help them put the right hat on, and that is what I needed in my life.”
Once he received help, Walker understood what was going on with him and why he needed help, he said.
“I want to encourage our men and women that there is no shame to ask for help; I did it,” he added. “There is no doubt, it is tough and it’s hard, but the outcome is going to be positive because you will eventually see the light, but it will not be that easy. You have to fight through it in order to make that happen.”
During his visit he got to experience working with K-9 handlers and Military Working Dogs, Air Traffic Control personnel, Mental Health personnel and spoke to Airmen and their families about mental health and his experiences from his own mental health during a picnic.
“I want to thank all service men and women for everything they have done for me, and for giving me the privilege to speak to them,” Walker said. “This visit was great! I got the chance to view so many things that show why we have the best military in the world. The military shows me so much love and that is what I try to show them. That is why I tell athletes today to go out and visit all service men and women, because they are the true heroes.”
Walker came to deliver a message to Team Tyndall; don’t be afraid of looking for help.
“You are not less of a man or a woman if you go out and seek for help,” he said with confidence. “To prove my case, look at me now! I am fighting at 53 years old and beating up 20-year-olds, running as fast as I was in college, running a business and doing the same things right now as I was back then. So that tells you that it doesn’t make you less of a person, it makes you a better person overall.”