The Warrior Beach Retreat in Panama City Beach, Florida, is suppose to be a reward for the brave men and women injured serving our country–but, this year, it was anything but.
A group of frat guys–from the Zeta Beta Tau chapters at University of Florida and Emory University–instead decided to dishonor the heroes that keep our nation safe, by harassing these veterans and their families.
“They actually spit on me and my service dog as well,” said Nicholas Connole, one of the injured veterans who was targeted. “And that’s just so disrespectful and it hurts. I come and I feel honored and I feel safe and that I belong, but now I feel like I’m defending myself.”
Other veterans–all of whom were shocked by the disrespect of these college students–added that beer had been thrown on them from balconies, and that they had been spit on.
Linda Cope, who founded the Warrior Beach Retreat, was equally disgusted.
“They’re a total disgrace for our military,” she said of the students. “They were urinating on the American flag, they were throwing things off of the balconies… There was a group of very intoxicated college kids that actually ripped the American flag out of the ground and was trying to run around with it.”
She added: “I have not stood up and said anything about spring break because we constantly want to get the support of the community–but if this is at all indicative of what these college students do, we need to get rid of it.”
To the University of Florida and Zeta Beta Tau’s credit, however, they took swift action to decry the actions of their students.
W. Kent Fuchs, president of the University of Florida, wrote a personal apology note to Cope and the Warrior Beach Retreat:
“I can only imagine the pain and indignity of enduring this behavior,” he wrote. “I want to assure you that it is not representative of our students or our university and we will make every effort to learn more, take appropriate action and prevent similar incidents from occurring again.”
Zeta Beta Tau’s national office has promised to make things right, after this “disgraceful situation.”
Emory University is still investigating the role its students may have played, but promised that anyone found responsible would “be held accountable.”
Panama City Beach, however, is apparently “up in arms” about what happened.
“This community is so patriotic and supportive,” Cope said. “The fraternities are learning a hard lesson. You don’t treat these men and women who have sacrificed so much for your freedom like that.”