A Florida man couldn’t believe what he saw parked outside Dunkin' Donuts Tuesday morning –- a hearse carrying the body of an Army veteran.
The body of Lt. Col. Jesse Coleman was on the way to a service from Veterans Funeral Care in Clearwater, when a driver and a licensed funeral director stopped at Dunkin' Donuts in New Port Richey. They stopped around 8:50 a.m.
“What could they have been thinking?” Veterans Funeral Care President Jim Rudolph said. “I haven’t got the foggiest idea.”
Rudolph said his core business is honoring vets, and the pit stop for a cup of coffee went against that. He said the two employees did not follow their policy.
“That’s absolutely terrible,” he said. “It’s not what we do. That’s absolutely a total lack of respect.”
The video, taken by Rob Carpenter, went viral when he shared it with Veteran Warriors. Lauren Price, with Veteran Warriors, said when she saw the picture she called the funeral home immediately. Price and her family served in the military. She said part of her service included funeral detail.
"I've been on funerals where we had to travel four hours to do a funeral in full uniform in the dead of summer in Florida and we didn't stop to get coffee,” Price said.
"When a car is heading to a service, if there's more than two people it doesn't pull over,” Rudolph said.
Because of this incident, both employees have been let go. Both of them had a number of years of experience. Rudolph said he contacted Lt. Col. Coleman's widow to inform her about the incident. He said she told him she was disappointed, but did not want them to be fired. Rudolph said he does not plan to reverse his decision. He said they were devastated about what happened.
“I think if they had the ability to turn back the day, they’d do thing different,” Rudolph said.
According to the Veterans Funeral Care website, Lt. Col. Coleman served a tour in Korea and two tours in Vietnam. Lt. Col. Coleman was honored for his service, including two Bronze Star Medals and two Army Commendation Medals.