FAIR WINDS AND FOLLOWING SEAS
The Blue Angels family and the broader Naval Aviation community mourns the loss of one of our Nation’s true heroes and great patriots, CAPT Gerald “Jerry” Coffee, USN (Ret.).
CAPT Coffee had a highly decorated career as a Naval Officer and Aviator. In his first assignment, he flew low-level reconnaissance missions over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis which provided photographic proof of Soviet nuclear-tipped missiles, thereby turning the tide of the dangerous Soviet – U.S. standoff. During the Vietnam War, Jerry was flying a combat mission off the USS Kittyhawk when he was shot down by North Vietnamese anti-aircraft guns and was held prisoner for over 7 years in the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ communist prison where torture and solitary confinement were routine. He was awarded the “Silver Star” medal for his persistence and creativity in facilitation of communication between and among POWs.
Upon release, Jerry continued to fly, eventually taking Command of VC-1 in Hawaii. He also attended the Naval War College and subsequently served as a Public Speaker at the personal direction of the Chief of Naval Operations. In January 2001, Jerry was named one of the top 10 motivational speakers in the United States.
“The fact that he was a highly accomplished and decorated officer and aviator doesn’t begin to capture the true essence of CAPT Coffee, the person. To know him and several of his fellow Vietnam POW’s has been a truth unsurpassed for me in my life. While a Plebe (freshman) at the Naval Academy, I had the great privilege to interview several POW’s for a term paper we each had to write for leadership class. I came to understand from them at a young age as an aspiring aviator myself, what it meant to serve a purpose greater than oneself, and to do so with character, integrity and honor. From my interactions with CAPT Coffee until his passing, I continued to observe what it truly means to live a life of humility with an attitude that’s filled with gratitude. More selfless, humble, and caring people I’ve never met than these heroes, and CAPT Coffee epitomized those character traits.”
Mark Mykityshyn, a Naval Academy graduate and former Blue Angel.
A memorial service will be held for Captain Coffee at the United States Naval Academy on Tuesday, December 7th at 10:30 am. https://www.fairfaxmemorialfuneralhome.com/obituaries/Captain-Jerry-L-Coffee?obId=23147433#/obituaryInfo