Veterans Day, November 11; Chili’s Restaurants across the nation collectively served 200,000 free meals to U.S. military veterans.
One retired serviceman was passed over, however.
47-year-old Ernest Walker walked into a Chili’s in Cedar Hill, Texas on Friday with his service dog Barack, military fatigues, and discharge papers looking to redeem his free meal, only to be turned away.
”I wear this one day a year,” explained Walker to an NBC reporter, referring to his military uniform. ”I’m not some kook that’s reliving the past.”
”I purposely don’t wear a rank or a name tag as not to be identified as an active soldier,”
After a Chili’s waitress served Walker a burger, an ”old white guy wearing a Trump flag shirt,” as Walker described the man, approached him and questioned whether or not Walker had actually served in the armed forces.
A self-proclaimed World War II veteran, Walker’s questioner allegedly said, ”I was in World War II in Germany and they didn’t have any blacks over there then,” according to USA Today.
African Americans were, in fact, an integral part of the U.S. fighting force in WWII. The National World War II Museum recognizes that by 1945, 1.2 million African Americans served across all fronts, including the European Theater.
Walker further recalled that the man said ”We have guests that say you are not a legitimate military veteran.”
Walker, who is African American, took the criticism in stride, saying ”I was like, he’s an older guy so I let that stuff go.”
”I believe that if it wasn’t for the temperature of America right now, I believe that man would have never reacted that way. I think he’s probably a good person.”
Walker dismissed the criticism, but as he was leaving, a Chili’s manager stopped him and accused Walker of lying about his military service and the fact that his dog was a registered service animal, according to The Washington Post.
The manager then took Walker’s carry-out box and refused to give it back.
Walker recorded the incident on his phone and posted the interaction to Facebook, racking up about 400,000 views in the process.
Chili’s President Kelli Valade responded to the grievance in an open letter, in which she wrote, ”On Nov. 11, one of restaurants failed to live up to our expectations and in doing so, we let down a valued Guest.”
The statement explained that the Chili’s manager in question has since been ”removed” from his post.
Sources: USA Today, The Washington Post, NBC, National World War II Museum/Photo Credit: Mike Mozart/Flickr