The University of Florida and Emory University are investigating claims that members of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity disrespected and assaulted veterans during a recent stay in Panama City Beach, Florida.
The students are accused of urinating on an American flag, taunting wounded veterans, pouring beer on them, and even spitting on one veteran.
Warrior Beach Retreat, a charity based in Florida, regularly provides all-expense-paid vacations for wounded veterans and their families, with local residents and businesses footing the bill.
On April 17, the fraternity members, staying in the same resort, allegedly “made derogatory comments about the warriors’ wives, threw items off balconies, and desecrated an American flag,” according to a Facebook post by Law Enforcement Today.
Nicholas Connole was a victim of the incident, as he told WHJG TV.
“They actually spit on me and my service dog as well, and that’s just so disrespectful and it hurts,” he said.
“This happened because of two fraternities causing heartache for these warriors and that should never have happened – never happened. Shame on them. There was no excuse,” Warrior Beach Retreat founder Linda Cope said.
Zeta Beta Zau International has already expelled three members from the University of Florida, and both chapters of the fraternity have suspended activity while the investigation continues.
“There is no doubt that some of our members engaged in ugly and unacceptable behavior. Their actions have no place in ZBT or anywhere, and they will not be tolerated,” Laurence Bolotin, the fraternity’s executive director, said in a written statement. “I am deeply saddened that the actions of our members ruined this special event and failed to show the respect our military and their families deserve.”
University of Florida president W. Kent Fuchs issued a written apology to the veterans: “I can only imagine the pain and indignity of enduring this behavior. 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.”
Emory University has said it cannot confirm that any of its students were involved.
“If any members of our community are identified as being responsible, they will be held accountable for their actions by the university,” their statement read.
Panama City Beach residents are enraged at the fraternities’ disrespectful behavior.
“You don’t treat these men and women who have sacrificed so much for your freedom like that,” Cope said.