Grand Forks AFB welcomes former NFL star for Summer Bash

Herschel Walker poses for a photo with Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez during a meet and greet session Aug. 20, 2015, at the Summer Bash sports grounds on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Walker spent the day with Airmen and was the guest speaker at the closing ceremony for the day's events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Desiree Economides)

Herschel Walker poses for a photo with Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez during a meet and greet session Aug. 20, 2015, at the Summer Bash sports grounds on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Walker spent the day with Airmen and was the guest speaker at the closing ceremony for the day's events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Desiree Economides)

Herschel Walker signs football memorabilia for Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez during a meet and greet session Aug. 20, 2015, at the Summer Bash sports grounds on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Walker spent the day with Airmen and was the guest speaker at the closing ceremony for the day's events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Desiree Economides)

Herschel Walker signs football memorabilia for Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez during a meet and greet session Aug. 20, 2015, at the Summer Bash sports grounds on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Walker spent the day with Airmen and was the guest speaker at the closing ceremony for the day's events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Desiree Economides)

Herschel Walker signs football memorabilia for Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez during a meet and greet session Aug. 20, 2015, at the Summer Bash sports grounds on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Walker spent the day with Airmen and was the guest speaker at the closing ceremony for the day's events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Desiree Economides)

Herschel Walker signs football memorabilia for Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez during a meet and greet session Aug. 20, 2015, at the Summer Bash sports grounds on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Walker spent the day with Airmen and was the guest speaker at the closing ceremony for the day's events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Desiree Economides)

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The Warriors of the North hosted a special guest Aug. 20 for this year's Summer Bash.

Professional athlete and former Dallas Cowboys running back Herschel Walker played professionally for 12 seasons in the National Football League, and won the Memorial Heisman Trophy in 1982 while competing as a college football running back for the University of Georgia Bulldogs.

Walker was the special guest speaker at this year's Summer Bash, Grand Forks AFB's largest annual base-wide summer event, designed to boost morale and esprit de corps, while promoting physical and social fitness, two of the four pillars, which form part of the Air Force's Comprehensive Airman Fitness Program which is designed to build and sustain a thriving and resilient Air Force Community.

Walker's visit generated much excitement with Airmen on the base, but perhaps no one has more reasons to be excited about the visit than Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez, 319th Comptroller Squadron, better known as Sergeant LG.

"When I think of Herschel Walker, I think of my family's tradition of watching the Dallas Cowboys play," he said. "It's a tradition that's been enjoyed by four generations, and it's provided my family with a lot of good memories."

LG continued by saying Walker is an important part of those family memories because his very first memory of watching the Dallas Cowboys was seeing Walker run more than 50 yards and score the game-winning touchdown during an overtime period against the New England Patriots in 1987.

"That single play may not have been to win a Super Bowl, but it might as well have been," he said. "I remember the happiness it brought to me as a five-year-old boy. My stepfather grew up a fan of the Cowboys, and I remember we kept cheering at the top of our lungs after Herschel scored that touchdown."

LG said that one play stood out to him because up until that moment, he could never recall him and his stepfather having something to bond over the way most fathers and sons might.

One thing LG said he remembers with great clarity was having his stepfather hug him for the first time.

"It may not seem like a lot, but when you're a kid trying to earn the affection of the man who's raising you and putting a roof over your head, something as simple as a hug can make you feel so special and accepted," he said.

LG said he has always been a fan of Walker's, even when he played for other NFL teams, including the Minnesota Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the New York Giants. He has a personal collection of football cards spanning Walker's NFL career to prove it.

He keeps each one protected in hard plastic inserts inside a white boxed labeled "#34" on the outside, but few people have seen or noticed the words "1st Hug 1987" written inside the box underneath the lid.

"You know, many football fans including myself will argue that the Herschel Walker trade in 1989 was one of the most important events that led to the Cowboys putting together the championship teams that ended up winning three Super Bowls in the 90s," he said. "So whether directly or indirectly, Herschel Walker was at the start of what became so many wonderful family memories."