There are visitors, there are distinguished visitors, and there is Major General William J. Walker, United States Army and Leo High School Class of 1975, who came to Leo on Tuesday, Oct. 16 to pitch students on the idea of military service as a possible career.
Gen. Walker would know. A member of the Army Reserve, he joined the Drug Enforcement Administration upon graduating from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 1978. His duties took him all over the world, he was responsible for some major drug arrests and seizures, and he rose to the No. 3 position in the agency before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 57.
“I chose that particular career because I wanted to help people,” General Walker said.
He also had no desire to retire, so he went on active duty with the Army and applied the same commitment to duty, attaining the rank of Major General. He is the commanding general for all branches of the Washington, D.C., National Guard, which quite simply means he is responsible for the security of our nation’s capital.
“As I rose through the ranks, the lessons that helped me the most were those I learned at Leo High School,” Gen. Walker told an assembly of juniors and seniors in the school auditorium. “It was a blessing that my parents sent me here after I graduated from St. Sabina.”
Gen. Walker was visiting Leo for the first time since he graduated 44 years ago. He kept the students in thrall with stories of DEA drug interdictions the world over, as well as tours in overseas hotspots with the Army. He was scheduled to talk during the seventh period, but nobody minded when his speech and the lively Q&A that followed spilled well over into eighth period.
He emphasized that the military can be a promising and satisfying career, one that’s attainable for anyone who believes in himself and is willing to work hard.
“If I can do it,” Gen. Walker said, “anyone in this room can do it.”
A photo shoot and a presentation of Leo T-shirts to the General and his fellow visitors concluded the 90-minute program. As Principal Shaka Rawls was thanking Gen. Walker, he heard some students whispering, “school song, school song,” and a full-throated rendition of the Leo Fight Song followed, with General Walker joining in and “L’ing up.”
“At that moment,” Mr. Rawls said, “everything we’ve been through at Leo was worth it. The boys are getting it. I’m really proud of them.”
Proud, too, of a 1974 Leo grad whose entire life is the embodiment of Facta non Verba.
Thank you, Gen. Walker, for your service. And for being a true and inspiring Leo Man.