Investigations have been launched at two universities over accusations that Zeta Beta Tau fraternity members disrespected and taunted a group of disabled military veterans at a Panama City Beach resort on April 17.
Already, three ZBT members have been booted from their frat over an incident where they urinated on an American flag and spit on a wounded veteran and his service dog, among other disgusting things.
Frat members from the University of Florida and Emory University in Georgia were attending the same resort as the disabled veterans for their spring formals. So far, no Emory students have been found to have been involved in the incidents.
Via Fox News:
“They were being treated like the Vietnam veterans were treated,” said Linda Cope, the founder of the Warrior Beach Retreat.
The local charity provides an annual all-expense-paid vacation for more than a 100 combat-wounded warriors and their spouses or caregivers. All of the expenses are covered by Panama City Beach residents and businesses.Cope tells me the fraternity members were staying in the same resort – and caused a night of mayhem. The college kids made derogatory comments about the warriors’ wives, threw items off balconies and desecrated an American flag.
She also said one of the warriors and his service dog were spit on.
Television station WJHG identified that man as Nicholas Connole.
“They actually spit on me and my service dog as well, and that’s just so disrespectful and it hurts,” he told the television station.
There were local reports of frat boys throwing beer on veterans and ripping an American flag out of the ground.
The Gainseville Sun reported that Cope was reduced to tears over the incident. “This was supposed to be a safe place,” she said.
She added that “they knew who they were and were just getting a kick out of it. It is heartbreaking as a mom with a son who sacrificed so much for their freedom.”
About 60 veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan attended the retreat, which has been held twice a year for the last six years, Cope said.
Cope started the event in honor of her son Joshua, an Army sergeant who lost both his legs in Baghdad in 2006 when an IED exploded under his Humvee.
The president of UF was extremely apologetic and promised to make amends.
University of Florida President Kent Fuchs has personally apologized for the behavior of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity members toward the veterans participating in the Warrior Beach Retreat at Laketown Wharf Resort. Fuchs promised a full investigation.
“The incidents and behavior you and others have described (in letters and phone calls) and the offense to the wounded warriors and other guests are unacceptable,” Fuchs wrote in a letter emailed to Linda Cope, founder of the Warrior Beach Retreat. “We are pursuing an investigation of the matter to learn more about the involvement of University of Florida students and whether disciplinary action will be needed.”
Haley Riley, the wife of a wounded Afghanistan veteran who attended the retreat, had more to say on Facebook about the frat boys’ misbehavior. She said that “the students took personalized car magnets from veterans’ cars, threw beer bottles over the balconies of their rooms onto the veterans below, and threw up in elevators and on awnings over areas where vets were sitting.”
“These actions are truly hurtful and disgust me that these students would behave this way!” Riley said.
Panama City resident Nicole Morrow also expressed her disgust in an email to Fuchs: “The way (veterans) were treated by members of your university is beyond comprehension. Even though it may have been perpetrated by a small group of men and their dates, they, however, represent your university and the whole Gator Nation. This has the potential to be very embarrassing for UF.”
Laurence Bolotin, executive director of Zeta Beta Tau International, said further action may be necessary.
“We are committed to fully addressing the events that took place, and will be hiring an independent investigator to help us gather all of the facts,” Bolotin said in a prepared statement. “Short-term, we are actively working with the resort, with the Presidents of both universities and with the local police to fully understand the events that took place.”
Bolotin also apologized for the students’ actions, adding that the fraternity has a zero-tolerance policy for such behavior and is “committed to appropriately disciplining any members of our Fraternity who were involved.”
“We also look forward to working with our members to make amends for this disgraceful situation by identifying opportunities to serve those who have done so much to serve us,” Bolotin said.
The story has reportedly infuriated members residents of Panama City community.
Bob Frier, the anchor from Fox 35 in Gainesville, summed up the general feeling when he said that the frat boys were “acting like jerks to American heroes.”