Chili’s is feeling the heat after an African-American U.S. Veteran was treated as an imposter on Veterans Day over false allegations from a supporter of President-elect, Donald Trump.
The incident happened on Friday (Nov. 12) when Ernest Walker attended a Chili’s in Cedar Hill, TX where he received a free meal on behalf of the restaurant’s tribute to Veterans Day. While seated with his service dog named “Barack,” a fellow veteran wearing a “Trump” t-shirt questioned him about his service.
“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 CBS DFW. Walker entered the force at the age of 18, proudly stating how his service changed his life. Immediately after the encounter, a manager approached Walker and took away his meal over claims he was faking his military status. Despite showing him his discharge papers and proof of his service dog, the manager wasn’t apologetic about the encounter. The manager also claimed Walker was “not a real soldier because [he] had [his] hat on indoors.”
After Walker’s Facebook video of the incident had hit viral status, the company released a statement on their social page. “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 hasn’t heard from the company directly but believes the incident insulted his military service. “I do believe that the election has changed the hearts and changed the motives of people so much so that he believed in his heart and mind after talking to the Trump supporter that I was stealing food,” Walker said.
The company hasn’t announced if the manager who took the food from Walker would be reprimanded for his actions. Walker plans to file assault charges against the manager.
UPDATE 11/15/16 12:05 P.M. EST
Walker’s story has touched the hearts of thousands of people, including a community from Arizona who created a GoFundMe to help the veteran upgrade his dinner choices. In just 24 hours, the campaign has raised close to $1500, surpassing their $100 goal.
You can donate to the commendable campaign here.