Special guests share life lessons during AFMAO Wingman Day

  • Published
  • By Christin Michaud
  • AFMAO Public Affairs
The team at Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, paused for Wingman Day Oct. 15 and to host special guests.

"Wingman Day is a time for our tremendous team here to take a knee and to focus on the Comprehensive Airman Fitness Program," said Lt. Col. Chip Hollinger, AFMAO deputy commander, before introducing special guests Hershel Walker, a famous athlete and Jeff Gendelman, an actor and producer.

Hollinger highlighted their pursuit of excellence and interest in knowing and understanding people and how it relates to the mission.

"Specifically, today we will focus on the mental aspects of comprehensive fitness and how important it is for all of us to watch out for one another, particularly in regard to our solemn mission here," said Hollinger.

The two guests share a love for mixed martial arts but also a passion for helping people recognize the need to seek help.

They each shared their personal journeys and stories of triumph.

Walker, best known for winning the Heisman Trophy in 1982, said there are many universal truths, but the two he shared with the mortuary team were to "treat everyone with respect and dignity," and "everyone deserves a second chance."

Respect and dignity is something the team here is well versed in. It encompasses two of three words in the mission of how AFMAO cares for the fallen.

Walker stressed the importance of applying that to relationships outside the work place as well. In addition to respect for others, his advice was to "get along to get along," he said. "If you are all on one page, you can accomplish greatness."

He said he learned that lesson from one of his coaches. When he played for the University of Georgia, his team wasn't the biggest, the fastest or the prettiest, he said, but they worked together as a team and as a result only lost one game.

Putting work into relationships is something Gendelman agreed was important as well.

"I'm tough to live with," he said recognizing how hard it must be for his daughters and wife. "There isn't anything harder than making a relationship work."

The actor said he learned a valuable lesson at a young age and it is something he has carried with him throughout the years.

"I don't live my life with regrets," he said.

Gendelman is proud of what he has accomplished including his recent movie "The Surface," which was featured at the base's Wingman Day.

Creating the movie has been a dream of his for 18 years, he said. It's a story about triumph and spirit and is a reminder that tomorrow is another day.

Gendelman who has served as a conduit for change in people's lives stressed that if a time comes when people are off track, it is okay to see a cerebral coach to help get back on track or have what he called a cerebral carwash.

"The (mental health) stigma is ending," said Gendelman, "and we are a part of that."

During their orientation, both men were in tune to what the men and women at the mortuary are faced with and the impact it can have mentally.

Walker discussed his experience with seeking help with mental health providers despite his fame as an NFL player and now serves as a spokesman for Patriot Support Programs, an organization that helps service members, veterans and their families to manage the effects of post-traumatic stress, depression and substance abuse.

"It's an honor for me to be here," Walker told the mortuary team. "You are my heroes - you truly are."