by Airman 1st Class Gabrielle Spradling
460th Space Wing Public Affairs
12/23/2015 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The road to faith can be a rocky path, but the attitude along the way is what makes the trip worthwhile.
Chaplain Jim Bridgham, 140th Wing chaplain, believes that every good story has drama and shapes who a person becomes.
Throughout his life, Bridgham had many bumps in the road, but he always used them as learning experiences.
Bridgham grew up in government housing in a poor suburb of Boston, with a
very limited faith background. However, he received a scholarship to
attend a local Catholic school because of his family's occasional
attendance to the church. Both of Bridgham's parents worked full time
and his father also went to school, so he was left to take public
transportation. While his parents were at work Bridgham's grandfather, a
retired Navy chief, took care of him.
"The only thing I remember wanting to do as a kid was to be in the military," Bridgham said.
According to Bridgham, the education he received through the Catholic
school allowed him to receive a ROTC scholarship. That was the only way
he was able to go to college.
While at the University of Tampa, Bridgham met his wife and, through a
local group, they both became Christians. This changed the course of
their lives and, throughout his college career, Bridgham led several
Bible studies and worked at a local church.
After college Bridgham commissioned as an active duty intelligence
officer in the U.S. Air Force. During his time on active duty, he
travelled around the United States and also had three overseas
deployments. Bridgham then decided to attend Denver Seminary in
Littleton, Colorado, and during his first year there became a chapel
candidate, which meant starting back at the bottom of the officer tier.
"I got to be a second lieutenant twice in my career, which is my little claim to fame," said Bridgham.
During his three years in seminary, Bridgham did not make much money to
support his wife and their two children so he worked as a janitor every
day, before and after class. His family also received aid from local
churches and a food bank.
The stress that he felt throughout seminary caused him to gain a lot of
weight from drinking Mountain Dew to stay awake and get all of his work
done. After one tough day of physical assessments and school testing
failures, Bridgham decided it was time to ditch the Dew and start a
"Over the course of six months I lost over 90 pounds and ran my first
half marathon," said Bridgham. "I also scored nearly perfect on my
fitness assessment, with a 99 percent."
Running helps Bridgham in his everyday life by providing a stress relief and he continues to be a runner today.
As a father of three, a husband and now a Colorado Air National Guard
chaplain, Bridgham juggles a lot of tasks, such as activities for his
kids and helping all branches of the military in not only work but also
The people of Team Buckley are the focus of Bridgham's work and he wants everyone to be as successful as they can be.
"I genuinely care for the people I interact with, what I do is who I am," said Bridgham.
A big way that the chaplain helps people is by being there as a guiding
light during times of tragedy. He supports people during the deaths of
loved ones, internal struggles and issues with deployments. The hardest
part of the job is notification of death when there are children
involved, said Bridgham. It doesn't matter whether it is suicide or
wartime death, the family still hurts.
Chaplain Bridgham prides himself on relating to everyone so that he can help them in the way they need.
"I love being with people, I love seeing their stories and helping them
connect the pieces, so they can see when they've had a rough patch that
that's just part of a great story that they're writing," said Bridgham.
"I believe that with all my heart."
Bridgham finds that if he can connect with people on their level then he can help them sort through their problems better.
"One of my big passions is gaming and working with folks who love
games," said Bridgham. "Recently I started an initiative where I've been
writing and talking at venues about the intersection of faith and
The goal of Bridgham's project is to show people that you can connect faith to any interest you may have.
"I will never shove my faith down your throat, but what I will do is
help you get through whatever it is you are going through no matter what
it is," said Bridgham.
The job of being a chaplain is difficult, and requires a lot of
understanding, passion and caring. Chaplain Bridgham exudes all these
characteristics and he asks for little in return. His simple request is
he wants to leave a great legacy.
All of the hardships Bridgham encountered during his childhood, college
years and adult life have shaped him into a valuable resource for Team
Buckley. He hopes to continue to serve Buckley AFB and make an impact on
as many people as possible, both in and out of the chapel.