Last week, two groups converged on a Panama City Beach Resort. In one, 60 wounded Iraq and Afghanistan vets, there to enjoy a relaxing retreat. In the other, brothers from Beta Zeta Tau, in town for their spring formal. One night, vets say the men urinated on an American flag, insulted their wives, and spit on them.
The incident took place on April 17 and is now being investigated by the University of Florida and Emory University after the organizer — and mom of a wounded vet, and double amputee herself — of the Warrior Beach Retreat complained to the colleges’ president about the Beta Zeta Taus, the Associated Press reported.
The accusations are disturbing. Vet Nicholas Connole told WJHG what happened to him that night.
“They actually spit on me and my service dog as well, 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.”
The list of obscene acts allegedly committed against the wounded veterans is lengthy and disturbing, according to Cope and a handful of witnesses, the AP, Gainesville Sun, WJHG and FoxNews reported: they ripped flags off their cars — and may have urinated on one — threw beer bottles over the balcony onto them, threw up in elevators and awnings, and insulted their wives.
“They were being treated like the Vietnam vets were treated,” Cope said, noting that the vets were clearly identified by caps and t-shirts. “They knew who they were and they were just getting a kick out of it. It is heartbreaking for a mom with a son who sacrificed so much for their freedom.”
She ultimately called police, but hotel security arrived and stopped the mayhem. Panama City Beach Police didn’t get involved as a result and no criminal charges have been filed, according to the Sun. The episode was not supposed to be made public, but a wounded vet posted about the experience on Facebook and caught fire online.
“They apologized to me in person, but only because they got caught,” she added.
The University of Florida has already wielded punishment. According to FoxNews, three have been expelled from the frat and the college and Beta Zeta Tau has called the behavior “disgraceful” and formally apologized. Emory denies the involvement of their students, which Cope doesn’t buy, Newsmax added.
“There were too many students from Emory for none of them to be involved. It is hard for me to believe.. This denial is a slap in the face of veterans.”
[Photo Courtesy Luke Sharrett/Getty Images]