Chili’s Restaurant Apologizes After Manager Takes Promised Free Meal From Army Veteran

U.S. Army veteran Ernest Walker, 47, said he was embarrassed and insulted after a Chili’s Grill & Bar manager accused him of taking a free meal that was served as part of the restaurant’s “free meal to veterans” promotion on Veterans Day. 

Ernest Walker
Ernest Walker NBCDFW screenshot

Chili’s Grill & Bar restaurant chain is apologizing after one of its managers took away a meal from a U.S. Army veteran from the Dallas area, NBCDFW reports.

According to the report, Ernest Walker, a 47-year-old veteran from Cedar Hill, was served the meal as part of the “free meal to veterans” promotion that was being offered on Veterans Day.

CBSDFW reports that earlier, Walker was seated at a table in the restaurant with his service dog, Barack, when an elderly customer approached him and started accusing him of not serving.

“‘They didn’t let you blacks over in World War II.’ That’s exactly what he said to me, but this guy is 70-some years old,” Walker told the news station.

The elderly man then walked away toward the back of the restaurant, only for a manager to come up to Walker’s table.

According to NBCDFW, Walker said that he believed the elderly man, who was wearing an American-flag shirt and a Donald Trump sticker, told the manager that Walker was not a veteran and should not get a free meal because he was wearing his cap indoors.

“[The manager said,] ‘Sir, we have guests that say you are not a military veteran.’ I said, ‘Excuse me?’” Walker told CBSDFW.

However, Walker had brought his military identification and his discharge papers specifically in the event that someone questioned his service. He showed both to the manager. But the manager wasn’t done humiliating the veteran yet.

“He should have said, ‘Thank you for your service; I’m sorry,’” Walker said. “Instead of him saying that, he says to me, ‘Well, he says your service dog is not real.’”

Walker then presented his dog’s certification and began recording the encounter with the manager on his cellphone.

“That manager needs to be either reprimanded or fired,” Walker said. “This overzealous manager comes out, and instead of talking to me man-to-man, he treated me as if I was a black man stealing a meal.”

Walker said that the manager snatched his to-go meal and walked away, according to NBCDFW.

On Sunday, Chili’s issued the following statement to the news station, saying:

We are aware of the situation that occurred at our Chili’s Cedar Hill restaurant on November 11th. Our goal is to make every guest feel special and unfortunately we fell short on a day where we serve more than 180,000 free meals as a small token to honor our Veterans and active military for their service, hence these actions do not reflect the beliefs of our brand.  We are taking this very seriously and the leaders in our company are actively involved with the goal of making it right. Since the incident occurred, we have extended an apology and we are reaching out to the guest.

Walker, however, still wants to be recognized as someone who fought bravely for his country.

“They’re doing what they should do, but they still haven’t validated me as a soldier,” Walker told NBCDFW. “I just need him to say ‘I see your ID, I see your DD214 and I respect you as a soldier, and as a man and as a customer.'”

Read more at NBCDFW and CBSDFW

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