CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Herschel Walker, a former NFL football player, Heisman trophy winner and mental health patient, came to Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune Thursday to talk to service members about the stigma associated with getting help for mental disorders.
“There’s no shame in admitting you have a problem,” Walker told The Daily News after his speech to the crowd of Marines and sailors gathered in the lobby of the base hospital. “I play a game that I can walk away from... but service members, they can’t do that. They now have said that they want to serve this country, so they’re there to do that, and I think it’s our responsibility to help them.”
Walker has been visiting military bases and other mental health installations worldwide since 2008 to speak about his own personal struggles with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.
“It was hard for me to understand it at first,” Walker said. “It was hard for me to cope with it because I thought ‘Well you won an NFL title, you won a Heisman trophy; how in the world could you have a problem?’ But when I look at the things I did, threatening my ex-wife, wanting to kill people...I realized I needed to get help.”
Walker spoke to the crowd first about his childhood, then about his career as a professional football player, and finally about his mental health issues, all while engaging the crowd and making them laugh throughout the entirety of his speech.
“I’ll tell you what, I love Herschel Walker,” he said to the crowd. “If I got 25 different personalities, I love them all, good, bad and the ugly. Because one of them won a Heisman trophy and one of them went to the White House a couple times, one of them spoke in front of Congress and one of them got me in the NFL.”
When he finished his speech, Walker took the time to sign autographs and get pictures with some of the service members who came to hear him speak. He spent the rest of the morning touring the hospital and visiting with patients in the mental health ward.
“This is awesome that he actually took the time to come down here and address these issues,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Glenn Taunaco, after Walker finished his speech. “Even though he wasn’t in the military, he’s dealing with some of the same situations we (have).”
Naval Hospital Commanding Officer Capt. David Lane said the hospital was thankful Walker was able to take the time to speak to the service members on Camp Lejeune.
“The power of his story was that he realized he needed help, and he went and got it,” Lane said. “So that’s what we’re hoping we can do with the Marines and sailors who have been wondering if they need help. Hopefully they will quit the wondering and just come get some help.”