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March 2, 2014

Wounded vet, coach to address annual banquet

All of his life, former U.S. Navy seal and Army Capt. Geoffrey Whitaker has relied on his physical talents, his mind and his faith.

But laying on the steel deck of a naval ship — after falling 20 feet while attempting to speed rope out of a helicopter — his physical ability was ebbing away and his mind was exposed to the air after falling head first.

All he had left was his faith.

“My story is all about the power of prayer,” said Whitaker, who will be the special guest speaker at the North Georgia Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s banquet on March 10 at the trade center. “What it is all about is just the power of prayer.”

The Home Team Celebration Banquet, themed “Redefining Victory: In God We Trust,” will begin at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

Originally from Murphy, N.C., Whitaker was an All-American wrestler at Georgia Tech on an ROTC scholarship.

“In this state, you can go to college or you can go to Georgia,” Whitaker jested, always the Yellow Jacket.

After his accident while deployed as a Chaplin with the Navy Seals, Whitaker went through 10 days of brain surgery with a level-3 traumatic brain injury — the most severe injury short of being brain dead. Even after those 10 days, Whitaker said his family was told he had a 10-percent chance of a complete recovery.

“They were preparing my family to be able to take care of a vegetable,” Whitaker said.

But he had numbers on his side.

“At that time I was 25, and I had been involved in different churches all of my life,” he said. “Some of my friends had gone off as missionaries. Before I left, I gave my wife a giant list of email addresses to send out if something were to happen. Out of all of those friends, various churches and my military family, I ended up with letters from around the planet and figured some 60,000 people were praying for me.

“That is the power of prayer,” he added. “Not only did I live, I fully recoverd. It wasn’t a pretty road sometimes, but here I am.”

And the road wasn’t as nearly as rough to travel as one might think, something of which Whitaker is extremely knowledgable.

“When I first woke up, I knew nothing,” he said. “It took a few days for the swelling to go down, and then you start realizing that you don’t know stuff. But that curve was pretty steep from not knowing my name to not knowing my parents, to now I can’t remember how to do Calculus 5. It could have been a lot worse, and I am grateful for the power of God.”

Now, Whitaker is a Spanish teacher and wrestling coach at Stockbridge High School, and he and his wife Melissa are expecting their first child in June. He plans to continue sharing his story of faith and the miracle of prayer with groups and with a book he is currently writing.

“God has truly blessed me,” he said.

The banquet is open to the public but reservations are required by calling (706) 226-5104 or by email to gshoates@fca.org.

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