Two funeral home employees have been terminated after they decided to make a coffee run at Dunkin’ Donuts — on the way to the funeral of the war veteran whose body was in the car. The vehicle was carrying the body of 84-year-old Jesse Coleman, who served in Korea and Vietnam, and was en route to Coleman’s funeral service.
Rob Carpenter spotted the hearse carrying a flag-draped casket in the parking lot of Dunkin’ Donuts in New Port Richey, Florida. Carpenter took a video and a photo of the hearse and confronted one of the drivers when he left the store.
Carpenter described the situation to WFLA, a local news affiliate of NBC:
“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 then sent the footage and photo to the local Veteran Warriors group, who uploaded the photo to Facebook. Veterans Funeral Care later fired the two men for leaving the vehicle unattended.
“When you're in a loaded car, you should leave, you should be coffeed up,” said owner Jim Rudolph. “Do everything you need to do and drive really ceremoniously.”
So far, reactions from the public have varied widely, with some applauding the swift response from the funeral home director in terminating the employees, and others insisting that although the curtains should have been drawn to hide the casket, firing them for an ill-timed coffee run was unnecessary.
In fact, Coleman’s widow was among the people who urged Rudolph to pardon the men. “I think if they had the ability to turn back the day, they’d do things different,” Rudolph told The Associated Press.