Firefighter suspended for waving to Obama

Drum Major John Coleman quits pipe and drum band after Obama dispute

CLEVELAND – Drum Major John Coleman, suspended six months for nodding and waving to President Barack Obama, said Tuesday that he will not return to the Cleveland Firefighters Memorial Pipes and Drums band.

“There are too many bridges burned with the pipe band, too many hurt feelings on both sides,” said Coleman, fire inspector for Cleveland Heights. He was never suspended from his job, as some people mistakenly believed, but from his position in the band, which is made up of firefighters from several local departments, as well as civilians

After the suspension was reported in Monday’s Tipoff column in The Plain Dealer, the story went national and caused readers to debate the subject in the comments section of many blogs, sometimes not so nicely.

“There are some of the members of the band who wouldn’t want me back,” said Coleman, who as the drum major was the face of the organization, leading it in parades and often interviewed by the media. He does not play an instrument, though, an issue that some band members found unpalatable.

“I figure it’s best for the band if I leave,” he said.

Band leader Mike Engle, the pipe major, was out of town Tuesday and not available. A statement issued by the band read: “We’re sorry to see him leave. We are greatly disappointed that this issue has caused so much heartache. It’s been a disheartening few days.”

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