College Students Disrespect Veterans at the Warrior Beach Retreat

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PANAMA CITY BEACH-- UPDATE: March 28 5:30 p.m.

The University of Florida is closing a fraternity after allegations that its members hurled drunken insults and spat at a group of disabled military veterans during the Warrior Beach Retreat.

The school said Tuesday Zeta Beta Tau's Fraternity's closing is effective immediately.

It comes a week after the school suspended the fraternity, and ZBT's international office expelled three of its members after saying they had behaved inappropriately.

The school previously said it's charging the fraternity with obscene behavior, public intoxication, theft, causing physical or other harm and damage to property.

The situation occurred while the fraternity and veterans were at the Laketown Wharf Resort the weekend of April 18.

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UPDATE: March 23 12:30 p.m.

Emory University released this statement Thursday morning by email:

"Emory University was appalled to learn of acts of disrespect and harassment that were directed at attendees of the Warrior Beach Retreat in Florida this past weekend.

Our brave veterans who have sacrificed much for our country deserve the utmost respect and appreciation for their service.

The disrespectful behavior exhibited by students toward our veterans is not acceptable and will not be tolerated by members of the Emory community.

When Emory received complaints that students from one of our fraternities might be involved, Campus Life administrators immediately began an investigation. To date, no evidence has been found to implicate Emory students in these reported incidents. If any members of our community are identified as being responsible, they will be held accountable for their actions by the university.

Emory University thanks veterans for the significant contributions they have made to our country, and for exhibiting the values that we hold with great respect within our university community."

In a phone interview with CBS 46 in Atlanta Thursday morning, Warrior Beach Retreat Linda Cope responded to Emory's statement, saying, "There were too many students from Emory for none of them to be involved. It is hard for me to believe that no Emory student was a part of this. This denial is a slap in the face of veterans."

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Twice a year Panama City Beach welcomes our wounded heroes into the community for the Warrior Beach Retreat, but an event aimed at honoring our nation's veterans took a different turn at their hotel.

A group of college students didn't show these veterans the respect they deserve.

"This retreat has just been an eye opener. It's been more amazing than I ever thought it would be," said Gina Harden, the wife of a wounded veteran.

Our community has always gone above and beyond to give them a heroes welcome. However, during this Warrior Beach Retreat it was a different story when it comes to some of our visitors.

Some veterans say they now know how Vietnam Veterans felt when they came home. They say they were subjected to similar harassment by a group of college students.

"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," said wounded veteran Nicholas Connole.

Veterans say they were shocked at the level of disrespect these college students had. They told me that they threw beer on them from their balconies and even spit on them.

Linda Cope, founder of the Warrior Beach Retreat, says she's never seen such disgusting behavior.

"They're a total disgrace for our military," she siad. "They were urinating on the American flag they were throwing things off of the balconies."

These injured soldiers were staying at the Lake Town Wharf Resort at the same time students in the fraternity Zeta Beta Tau from the University of Florida and Emory University were in town for their spring formal.

"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," said Cope.

Veterans say it comes down to respect for our country.

"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."

Cope did receive an apology letter from the president of UF who said he has started an investigation.

"I said do your investigating, but I want to know what you're going to do. What are you going to do? I think they all should be put on probation. I'm hoping that this will make a dramatic change in their life to realize they do not need to take the sacrifice and the service of these men and women in vain," said Cope.

Cope also received a letter of apology from the University of Florida fraternity's president, who was there during the incidents, but she still has not heard anything from Emory University.