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Georgia Football

The Story of This Marine - Who Raised a Georgia Bulldog

November 9, 2021

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It was dark, and the cussing was loud. 

Stead Walker, father of Georgia Bulldogs defense lineman Travon Walker, was doing all he could to get his toes in line. 

And doing that was challenging considering the circumstances. It was Tuesday, Sept. 22, 1987, and Walker was trying to exit the bus that was taking him from the life he had known to a life he would have to earn on Parris Island, where Marine Corps recruit training has taken place for more than a century. 

Walker tried to make his way off the bus as fast as he could, but personal space was non existent and time was at a premium. Drill Instructor were hammering home - with great detail and in close quarters - that Walker and his fellow recruits were not moving at the speed needed to be a Marine. 

“I moved as fast as I ever have, but that wasn’t fast enough,” Walker remembered. “I got on those yellow footprints, and that’s when it hit me.”

From that point forward Walker would be shaped by the values of the Marines. He said he bleeds green, and that being in the Corps taught him lessons that he’s used ever since. 

“When you get off that bus, and put your toes on those yellow footprints it doesn’t matter if you are Black, white, Latino - doesn’t matter if you are Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, or just nothing - they cut everyone’s hair the same. You have the same socks, shoes and underwear - everything is the same,” he said. “The only difference might be their skin color, but that’s it. We were all the same. By being the same you have the bond. It starts automatically.”

Walker had grown up surrounded by those who had served. His father, Ernest Hammock, served during the Korean War in the Army. 

“He never talked about it,” Walker said. 

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Walker only spoke in generalities of his four-year time in the Marines - specifics about combat were limited. He served during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 - known commonly as the first Gulf War today. That was one stop on a journey around the world that included stops in Okinawa and Camp Lejeune.

“I got orders to go to Okinawa for a year. My mother didn’t want me to go that far so soon, but she knew I had signed up for something, and she was okay with it,” he said. 

Walker’s mother, Barbara Smith, and his grandparents had talked about him entering the Marines while he was in high school. It was a move Walker was eager to take on. 

“Me being in ROTC, I already had a love for it,” Walker said. “I love the discipline that it brought. I decided that I wanted to be in the Marine Corp.”

Walker appears to have instilled that same drive in his son Travon, who has had a stellar season so far for the No. 1 Bulldogs. 

“(Travon) is playing a lot of snaps, and I am really proud of what he is doing in terms of leadership for our team,” Kirby Smart said after a recent win for the Bulldogs. “I do not know how many years that it will be before I coach a guy who is that big that can run like that and has really good stamina with great toughness and effort. His stats may not be the best in the world, or they may not be what Azeez’s (Ojulari) are, but he is playing really well.”

Soon after graduating high school Travon was on his way to play for the Dawgs. At that time in his life the elder Walker was on his way, by bus, to Parris Island. After weeks of training, Walker came out as a Marine. His friends and family noticed changes in him immediately. 

“My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, knew I was different. My mother saw a difference in me. Everyone saw a difference in me - the way I walked; the way I carried myself; even the way I talked. I was more confident,” he said. 

That confidence, and the training he received, would be tested during war. In August 1990, the Iraqi Army invaded its neighbor Kuwait. Six months later Walker and his fellow Marines were on the way to the Middle East. 

“I don’t know about the other branches, but in the Marine Corps you don’t really know where you are going until you get there. Of course you have intel briefs, but because of security reasons you are not exactly told where you are going to be. Once you are in route you know exactly what’s going on. Marine Corps didn’t tell us where we were going, but we were always ready. We were ready for what we had to do,” Walker said of the conflict. 

Being ready involved taking direct fire from the enemy - another life-changing event for Walker. 

“When rounds start coming down range at you, it is an experience you will never forget. There is a high percentage that you may mess-up your underwear,” Walker said. “Looking back on it now - the training definitely kicked in. The muscle memory from constant doing and being told and doing things over and over - it kicked in, and it worked. I can say that for sure - it worked. If it didn’t work I would not be here today. It is a blessing to be here.”

Perhaps that’s why each fall, on Nov. 10, Walker said he celebrates the birthday of the Marine Corps. His time in the service cemented his commitment to his beliefs, and that continued after his time in the Marine Corps concluded. As a police officer, Walker would take it upon himself to replace American flags that were “unserviceable or faded.”

“That was a major issue for me. It meant a lot to me. I was on the color guard in high school in ROTC. Knowing what the stars and the stripes represent and what everything stands for - it isn’t just there. It isn’t just a piece of cloth,” he said. “The freedom we have - we are definitely blessed. We take every day for granted, but what we have a lot of countries will never have. It means a lot to me.”

Check out Dawgstruction - our coffee table book about the 2021 national title... CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

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