Heisman Trophy winner visits Ramstein, shares mental health story

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Heisman Trophy winner, former NFL player, U.S. Olympian, and Mixed Martial Artist Herschel Walker came to the Kaiserslautern Military Community Jan. 9-10, to visit with KMC members and shared his strugges with mental health.

Herschel’s story focused on his discovery that he suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Herschel credits the day he went to a behavioral health hospital as the best thing that ever happened to him. He encouraged those at the town hall to seek the help they need.

“Everyone knows the glory of Herschel Walker, but not everyone knows the story,” he told a group of KMC members at a town hall he hosted.

Herschel suffered from physical and emotional childhood trauma at the hands of his peers. He was consistently taunted and beaten up because he was overweight and suffered from a debilitating stutter. Finally, in eighth grade he had enough.

He began working out every day. He read out loud to himself in front of his mirror to correct his stutter. He made himself sit up front and participate in class.

He got stronger. He became more confident. His grades went up, his social standing improved and years later he became the all-around consensus for the greatest college football running back of all time, according to the National Football Foundation.

But that growth triggered something else.

“I developed this invisible persona,” Herschel said. “I swore that no one would ever beat me up again. No one would ever tell me I was retarded again. And I didn’t realize what I was doing until I got help.”

Herschel then recalled the day he discovered that dark and painful side of himself.

“My ex-wife told me, ‘Herschel, I’m afraid you’re going to hurt me,’” he said as he choked up. “And to be honest, I probably would have. All I talked about was hurting people.”

This was the moment when Herschel knew he needed to get help. He worked with his ex-wife, his pastor, and his doctor to find a hospital that could help him on his road through recovery.

He checked himself into a hospital in California and began treatment.

Herschel learned how to deal and cope with his mental illness through counseling and group therapy sessions, he said.

“I needed to learn how to love myself,” Herschel said. “I needed to be able to look into a mirror and say, ‘I love Herschel Walker.’”

Herschel encouraged attendees to not be ashamed of seeking help for mental illness.

“You all are the best we have,” Herschel said. “It’s not about LeBron James or Starbucks. You are the best America has. Please, for your friends and your families, do not be afraid or ashamed to seek help.”

In addition to hosting a town hall, Herschel also conducted two meet and greets and an open workout session at the North Side Gym on Ramstein. During this session he led a group of KMC members in one of the workouts he has used since high school.

The 86th Airlift Wing has several options for KMC members to seek help with mental illness. Chaplains assigned to the wing can be reached at: 06371-47-6168. The 86th Medical Group offers mental health counseling, their phone number is: 06371-46-2273.