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Gerald Coffee

Captain Gerald Coffee

  • Healthcare
  • Author:  Finding Gifts in Everyday Life
  • Teacher
  • Professional Speaker
Main Topic:
  • Beyond Survival:  Reaffirming the Invincibility of the Human Spirit
In February of 1966, while flying combat missions over North Vietnam, his RA5-C reconnaissance jet was downed by enemy fire. He parachuted safely but was captured immediately. For the next seven years he was held as a POW in the Communist prisons of North Vietnam. After his repatriation in February, 1973, Jerry returned to operation duties. He retired from active duty in the Navy after 28 years of service.

His military decorations include the Silver Star, two awards of the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Bronze Stars, the Air Medal, two Purple Hearts, and the Vietnam Service Medal with 13 stars.

For the past 20 years, Captain Gerald Coffee, has been considered one of the nation’s top speakers, addressing thousands of people a year across a broad spectrum of corporate America and to international groups as well.

 Tap Code
“By tapping covertly on our cell walls using an alphabet code we maintained our unity. We encouraged and cared for each other. We passed information, learned poetry, even learned new languages. I got to know my fellow prisoners like brothers, though I’d never even seen them.”

In his talk "Beyond Survival," Captain Coffee gives a moving account of his incredible experience from capture to ultimate release. His faith - in himself, others, his country, and his God - was the key to turning an unbelievably difficult and potential devastating experience into an opportunity for personal growth.

Captain Gerald Coffee is an inspiring example of the power of the human spirit to survive and triumph over the most adverse circumstances. His inspiring story conveys a positive message that we each have the potential to survive any ordeal, overcome any obstacle, achieve any goal.

SELECTED AS ONE OF AMERICA’S TOP TEN SPEAKERS, Captain Jerry Coffee uses Tap Code to personalize his message to your group. After hearing him, your people will look at their challenges and adversities in a totally different way.


When Captain Coffee talks about faith in one another, audiences are spellbound as he taps out client-specific messages to illustrate the importance of communication, both in prison as well as in corporate and personal lives. POWs in North Vietnam were not allowed to communicate with each other, so they used the centuries old "prisoners' code" tap code, using an alphabet matrix to tap out covert messages to each other.


Captain Coffee TAPS into ...

  • the power of COMMUNICATION

    “Prisoners weren’t allowed to communicate, but we still found ways to do it. We created a new language. Tap Code. It consisted of five rows of five letters each. By tapping on our cell walls, we passed information, poetry, even learned new languages.”
  • the power of LEADERSHIP

    “We kept faith in the leadership of our senior officers, who taught us that commitment, courage and character really count. In solitary I learned that leadership starts with self knowledge and understanding, accountability, and integrity.”
  • the power of MASTERING CHANGE

    “I suddenly found myself thrust into a totally foreign, hostile environment with no source of strength except that which I found within me. Ultimately, that was enough.”
  • the power of TEAMWORK

    “Our motto in prison was simple: Unity Over Self. Our very survival depended on it. It was based upon faith in and loyalty to one another. Unity over self...not a bad corporate motto."
  • the power of HUMOR

    “My first shower was in a dank, converted cell with water dripping down from a rusty pipe. Totally dejected, I looked up to let the water splash on my face and saw scratched on the wall, the words: Smile you’re on Candid Camera.”
  • the power of OVERCOME ADVERSITY

    “I walked several miles a day - three steps and a turn at a time. I vowed to find the purpose in my adversity and pain and come home better, tougher, and stronger in every way. Our mission in prison was to not just survive, but go beyond survival and return with honor.”

Gerald Coffee's Web Site
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"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."

Kelly Hipp
Director., Professional Relations

American Optometric Association

"Captain Jerry Coffee is one of the best guests I've ever interviewed. His story is fascinating and compelling. A real inspiration."

Larry King


"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!"

Andrew Brenneman
Sr. Government Account Executive



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