His faith—in himself, his fellow man, his country, and his God—was the key to his survival, and can be for all; each day, today and tomorrow. In using his incredible experiences as a vehicle, Retired Navy Captain Gerald Coffee leads his audience through laughter and through tears, and ultimately to the affirmation that we are all so much stronger and more capable than we give ourselves credit for, and we each have the potential to survive any ordeal, overcome any obstacle, and achieve any goal. His style is genuine, warm, and witty; his message unforgettable.
Captain Gerald Coffee is a native Californian, who graduated from U.C.L.A. in 1957. He was commissioned as a Naval Officer in 1958 and received his Navy wings in 1959. His early operational flying was primarily in tactical reconnaissance, flying advanced Navy jets from the decks of several aircraft carriers in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Pacific Oceans.
In early 1966, while flying combat missions from the USS Kitty Hawk in the Tonkin Gulf, Captain Coffee's aircraft was downed by enemy fire over North Vietnam. He parachuted safely, but was captured immediately. For the next seven years, he served as a prisoner of War in the various prisons of Hanoi. He was repatriated with the first group of POW's on February 12, 1973.
Since his return, Captain Coffee has earned a Masters Degree in Political Science from U.C. Berkeley, graduated from the National War College in Washington D.C., and commanded his own squadron at Naval Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii. He currently serves as a Public Affairs officer on the staff of the commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Captain Coffee's military awards and decorations include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, two awards of the Bronze Star, the Air Medal, two awards of the Navy Unit Commendation Medal, and the Vietnam Service Medal with 13 stars.
Captain Coffee has shared his message with hundreds of thousands of people over the past years, speaking to a variety of professional, civic, religious, military, and youth organizations.
He has addressed hundreds of major national conventions. For his contribution to Americanism through public speaking, he has been named a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International and is the recipient of the George Washington Honor Medal presented by Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.
Captain Coffee and his 2nd wife, Susan, a journalist, reside in Aiea, Hawaii. Between them they have a bunch of kids and grandkids and dogs. Their lanai overlooks Pearl Harbor and is directly across from Camp Smith where a giant American flag dedicated to America’s POWs and MIAs waves 24/7.
"Your story made me forget the little nuisances that I live with everyday, and you remind me to be grateful for my life today, as an American! Our human spirit may be "bent" during the difficult times, but it can never be broken because we must not choose to allow it. Your story was so compelling that it gave me goose bumps!
"Your presentation hit home with our team in an unpredictable way. Now I know personally why you have been honored as one of America's best."
"I have been with the Association for 20 years, and I have never seen a speaker have the full undivided attention of the audience for their entire presentation. You have been our most dynamic speaker to date."
"Captain Coffee was the last speaker of the program. He received a standing ovation and I believe even got a few folks choked up. It was extremely inspirational."