By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander
We’ve worked hard this week at the Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP) Training Conference, and folks were getting tired. We needed a little something, a little boost. Boy did we get it – in the form of Herschel Walker. This guy is awesome. He has a message I wish every Soldier and Family member could hear: “We can go one more round.” Most of you probably know that he is a Heisman Trophy winner, played for the New Jersey Generals, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and the Philadelphia Eagles. What you may not know is that he suffered from dissociative identity disorder, dealt with extreme anger, and threatened others with physical violence of which he had no memory. He sought psychotherapy treatment and made his illness public to encourage others to seek help.
His story is peppered with references to his strong Christian faith and with sports anecdotes. With each demon he had to confront, he told himself, “I can go one more round.” One thing that struck a chord with the team at this conference was how he addressed stigma. In the Army, we talk a lot about stigma—the stigma associated with seeking behavioral health care. It’s something we want to wipe out, something we want to overcome. Herschel’s message is that stigma doesn’t really exist when you know who you are and what you have to do. It is something used to make others feel less than who they are. When you know who you are and what to do, stigma doesn’t matter.
He also emphasized the importance of support networks and admitted that some people bailed on him when he went public. It didn’t matter, the people supporting him were the ones he needed. Getting better, getting free from his illness was what was important. He credits his ex-wife and pastor for getting him through the dark days. Herschel said there are times when you don’t think you can get up, times when you don’t think you can make it, and that’s when you need someone there to encourage you—to tell you that you can make it.
To me, his most compelling message is that maybe more important than telling people to seek help, is if you see a friend or family member struggling—go to them. Go to them because when they get to that really low point, they can’t see anything else. Help that friend or family member go one more round.
Herschel is also vocal about the importance of physical and mental fitness and how they go together. He understands it is important mentally to be able to know and understand your surroundings and that if you are physically fit you have the energy to adapt.
He shared that he considered a military career before he was recruited by Coach Vince Dooley at the University of Georgia. Herschel proudly admits he feels a connection with servicemembers because we have the ability to overcome and adapt in a lot of different situations. He compared the football team to the military saying that teamwork is how things get done.
Walker, who in his life has felt like he was not going to make it, wants Soldiers to know that they will make it. That there is no such thing as I can’t ; no such thing as I will give up; no such thing as I will quit. We can go one more round.
It’s clear my job as a senior leader is to create conditions where all of our Soldiers and their Families feel supported and part of a team—a team that can go one more round.