Two Florida funeral service drivers were fired after stopping for coffee and doughnuts while transporting the body of an Army veteran.
Rob Carpenter was shocked when he spotted a hearse with the front windows down, back curtains drawn and a coffin with the American flag draped across it on display in the parking lot of the Dunkin' Donuts in New Port Richey, Florida.
He took a video of the hearse and snapped a photo. He then waited for the funeral home workers to return so that he could confront them, WFLA reported.
“I’m like, ‘Is this really a body in here?' and he says, ‘Yes,’ and I said, ‘So you have a dead soldier in the back of your hearse and you’re stopping to get coffee?’ And he didn’t say anything,” Carpenter said.
“It was very upsetting and very disrespectful to this solider (sic) and their family,” said Carpenter, who added that the men did not seem remorseful.
Carpenter, whose father served in the military, sent the video and photo to Veteran’s Warriors. Lauren Price, head of the local group, then posted the photo on Facebook and it went viral.
"None of our brothers or sisters deserve to be an afterthought," Price said. "And if it's an imposition to transfer one of our brothers or sisters to their final rest, then the person who's doing that transporting should be in a different business."
Inside the hearse was the body of Ltc. Jesse Coleman. He served one tour in Korea, two in Vietnam and was the recipient of many medals, WFLA reports. He was 84 when he died.
Coleman’s body was being transported from Clearwater’s Veteran’s Funeral Care to Lecanto for his funeral service. Jim Rudolph, owner of the funeral home, was particularly upset with the news.
"To us, it's a big deal," said Rudolph, adding that most of his employees are either veterans or the children of veterans. "We are proud of what we do. We love our customers."
Rudolph said the two drivers are also sons of veterans and had worked for the funeral home for several years. Both men, who are in their 70s, had stellar records and were often praised for their services, Rudolph said.
"When you're in a loaded car, you should leave, you should be coffeed up," explained Rudolph, adding that the two drivers should have known better. "Do everything you need to do and drive really ceremoniously."
Rudolph considered suspending the two drivers but decided to fire them when they returned to work. He said the men were heartbroken and remorseful.
"They were good employee (sic) and didn't want to go out like this," Rudolph said. "In this business, you can't have a redo, if you tarnish someone's memory."
Coleman’s family was surprisingly forgiving and did not want the two drivers to lose their jobs, according to Rudolph. He said they praised the men’s work at the funeral, calling it “beautiful.”
Photo Credit: Via WFLA