Chaplain serves with love of ministry and family

By Mark HeeterMay 31, 2024

Chaplain (Maj.) Nathan Whitham
Chaplain (Maj.) Nathan Whitham (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WIESBADEN, Germany – Nearly 40 years ago, as Becca Whitham and now-Chaplain (Maj.) Nathan Whitham, were preparing to wed over Christmas break of their senior year of college, she was clear that there were two careers she did not want her husband to pursue: pastor and police officer.

“I was a stable business econ major, so that fit her plan. Shortly after we graduated, I started talking about the fact I thought God was calling me into ministry,” Whitham said. “She wasn’t really excited about that, so I went and became a police officer.”

Eventually, the calling to ministry grew, and she supported his decision to enter Northwest Baptist Seminary in Tacoma, Wash., where, he said, he managed to “cram three years of seminary into six.”

“So I graduated in 1995, and I spent about five years in and out of prison,” he said with a brief pause, “doing prison ministry.”

Then, a few years later, while pastoring a church in Leavenworth, Wash., Becca read that the Army had raised the maximum age of entry for chaplains from 42 to 47 – a sweet spot where the 46-year-old Whitham found himself. He was accepted to be an Army chaplain in 2009.

Whitham, the IMCOM-Europe Region chaplain comptroller, provides technical guidance and support to all the chaplain resource managers at the Europe garrisons. He also serves as the region’s deputy chaplain, and as an additional pastor to the Wiesbaden Protestant contemporary chapel service.

The Whithams shared a uniquely special moment the day their son, Steven, graduated and received his commission from the United States Military Academy at West Point in May 2009.

“After graduation, he comes walking up into the stands, takes off his sword and said, ‘Dad, I’ve been planning this for two years, and gave me his sword” he said. “Very proud moment.”

“And I said, well, Steven, I’ve only been planning this for a couple weeks, but now that you’re an officer, how’d you like to swear me in?” he recalled. “So I had the privilege of being sworn in by my son, and the moment he swore me in I outranked him.”

“He has now caught up and will pass me I’m sure,” Whitham said of Steven, now serving at Peterson Air Force Base.

“And if all goes according to plan, he will retire four months before I do,” in 2029, he said.

Whitham’s career has taken him many places that led him to his prior assignment at Syracuse University, where he earned two master’s degrees in 15 months in the Defense Comptroller Program.

Along the way, as he was preparing to deploy from Fort Carson, Colo., to western Afghanistan – “in a place so dry weeds wouldn’t grow” – Whitham urged Becca to finally turn the stories in her head into a book.

She connected with the head of the Christian Fiction Writers of America chapter in Colorado Springs and, under the mentorship of an acclaimed writer in the genre, published a book five years later.

“So she is an award-winning published author,” he said of his wife, adding a twist to the plot that “the woman who mentored her is our daughter-in-law’s mother.”

Whitham went on to officiate his son’s wedding in 2020, when the pandemic limited attendance to 10 people at the ceremony. Their second child, a daughter, was born May 30, and is grandchild number four for the Whithams, joining an older brother and their daughter Lyndell’s son and daughter.

Along with his hobby and passion for strategy board games – Settlers of Catan is the gateway game, he claims – and his aspiration to become a prolific gardener, Whitham has another goal for how to spend his time when he retires.

“I would love to come back and join a police department as a volunteer police chaplain. And then I will have come full circle,” he said.

Becca might have thoughts about that.