Video: Drum major suspended for wink, wave

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/28/2009 12:53:47 PM ET 2009-01-28T17:53:47

An Ohio firefighter has been given a six-month suspension from his role in a pipe and drum band because he nodded to President Barack Obama during last week's inaugural parade in Washington, D.C.

John Coleman later told The Cleveland Plain Dealer that he was leaving the band over the dispute.

"There are too many bridges burned with the pipe band, too many hurt feelings on both sides," Coleman told the newspaper.

Video shows Drum Major Coleman giving the nod along with a fleeting wave as the Cleveland Firefighters Memorial Pipes & Drums marched past the president.

The band leader, Pipe Major Mike Engle, said the firefighter from Cleveland Heights violated the proper decorum required in a military parade. He said members were warned not to make such gestures during the parade.

Coleman insisted he was just acknowledging the president. He told WEWS-TV that "contact was made with our eyes both together."

"He smiled and waved at the band and just as a gesture, I nodded my head," Coleman added. "I gave him a slight wave and went on."

Coleman said that he has been overwhelmed with phone calls and e-mails from across the United States.

"They are in support of me and would have done the same thing," Coleman told WEWS. "I just want to thank the people who have supported me and just take it from there.

Coleman was a 17-year veteran of the band, the Plain Dealer reported.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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