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Chaplain Cmdr. Holiman follows calling, family tradition

By Lance Cpl. Brendan Roethel | | May 1, 2014

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Cmdr. William Holiman, the Marine Corps Air Station chaplain, was born into a military family. During his career the A native of Little Rock, Ark. he grew up reading his relative’s cruise books and gazing at their photographs. He loved listening to their stories about life at sea and the many countries they saw. Hearing these experiences lured him to the Navy, which is why he joined his high school’s Junior Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps program.

It was these stories and photographs from his great grandfather, grandfather, father, and uncles, and his own experiences in JNROTC that guided him at the age of 39 toward a career of ministry, combat deployments, sea tours and more.

"Through the JNROTC program, near the end of my high school career I received a Navy scholarship to attend the University of Oklahoma," Holiman said. "I really considered accepting the scholarship, but I had a calling toward ministry, which lead me to attend a Christian college instead."

After college, Holiman attended seminary at the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia. It was while attending seminary, that he had the opportunity to work with his father-in-law, who was a pastor, and the church’s youth directors.

"When working with the directors I realized I wanted to learn what they knew, and do what they did," Holiman said. "That is when I signed up to learn practical theology under a retired Navy chaplain, who unfortunately retired from the school by the time I enrolled."

After attending seminary, he became a student pastor and moved on to a small church with only in upstate New York. After working there for a year, Holiman moved on to work at the First Reformed Episcopal Church in Manhattan, N.Y., also known as the "Mother of Reformed Episcopal Churches".

"I loved working at the First Reformed Episcopal Church, but after spending 12 years in such a fast paced and stressful environment I became lost somewhere between exhausted and burnt out," Holiman said.

While working at the First Reformed Episcopal Church, Holiman was asked by one of his parishioners to write a letter of recommendation so that he could become a Navy chaplain. Months later, the Navy rejected his parishioner’s application because they thought he was not experienced enough for the job.

"Shortly after my parishioner found out he couldn’t become a chaplain, I received a letter from the Navy that blatantly stated, ‘Why are you not a Navy chaplain?’" Holiman said. "When I received that letter I decided to walk into the Navy’s Officer Recruitment Center and sign up. After that I went home and told my wife that the Navy convinced me. At that moment she smiled and said it was about time I joined."

Holiman signed up for the Navy only months before reaching the Navy’s cut off age of 40.

"For the first seven years I was in, I was away from home for three and a half years," Holiman said. It was a lot between deployments, work ups and my one year unaccompanied duty in Greece. Although it was hard being away from home, it helped me to know that God was with me and my family every step of the way. It was also great being able to really connect with and help the Marines and sailors."

Holiman began his career on an aircraft carrier heading toward the Persian Gulf. After being stationed on the carrier, he was sent to the 1st Marine Division for three years, eventually becoming the Command Chaplain for 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines.

"After being with 2/11, I became the regimental Chaplain for 5th Marine Regiment 1st Marine Division," Holiman said. "I deployed with the 5th Marine Regiment to Iraq for the official kickoff of the war in March of 2003. We were there and participated in the March to Baghdad and stabilization operations."

After being deployed to Iraq, Holiman was stationed at Corey Station Florida, where he ran a chapel for three years, and deployed on the USS Harry S. Truman, in support of the Unit Deployment Program with VMFA-312, the Checkerboards, in 2010.

"After my deployment with the Checkerboards, I was stationed with the Seabees at Gulfport Navy Base, Miss.," Holiman said. "Because I was the senior chaplain there I was assigned with christening ships. There I christened the USS Coronado, the USS Arlington, which was very moving and emotional for me knowing the ship was named in honor of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, and the USS Anchorage which I thought was cool because I have a son living in Alaska."

Before arriving to the Air Station, Holiman worked aboard the USS Wasp which conducted various helicopter and Landing Craft Air Cushion amphibious assault exercises, Hurricane Sandy operations and F-35 testing. They also participated in Fleet Weeks all along the eastern seaboard.

"I really enjoyed my time aboard the USS Wasp, but when it came to leave I knew where I wanted to go," Holiman said. "It was through negotiation with my monitor and prayer that my family was able to get stationed where we wanted. MCAS Beaufort."

During his time on the Air Station, Holiman said he will work to build the spiritual strength of the Air Station’s service members, and bring them closer together through the Chapel’s events and activities. He most importantly seeks to provide the Marines with religious, spiritual, moral and ethical advice and services that will help make their time with the Air Station a more positive experience.

"My doors are open to everyone, regardless of their religious or nonreligious background," Holiman said. "I am here to help the Marines and sailors. They are my first and last priority, plain and simple."


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