Veteran’s Day was November 11, and many restaurants offered, as a token of appreciation for the service of our vets, free meals.
Chili’s is one such restaurant, but on Friday, honoring our vets clashed with the emboldened malignancy of Trumpism.
In Cedar Hill, Texas, one of our veterans experienced something none of our vets deserves to be subjected to. Here is his story.
For his free meal on Veterans Day, Ernest Walker picked the Chili’s Grill and Bar in Cedar Hill. The 47-year-old sat at a table and ordered a burger while his service dog Barack waited by his side.
As Walker tells it, an elderly white man wearing a Donald Trump shirt approached him and said that he was in Germany and that blacks weren’t allowed to serve there. Walker, who is black, says he was wearing his old Army uniform.
The man walked to the back of the restaurant, Walker says, and a waitress came to pack his leftovers. Then a manager showed up.
In a widely shared Facebook post, Walker wrote that the manager claimed another guest said Walker was not “a real soldier” because he was wearing his hat indoors. Walker said he provided a military ID at the manager’s request, along with his discharge papers.
“The guest also said your dog is not a service dog,” Walker says the manager told him.
Mr. Walker turned his cellphone camera on and recorded the incident as it went down.
“Barack had his red service vest on, and his certified service tags,” Walker wrote. “I was sitting for 35 minutes prior with Barack beforehand. At this point I was grossly offended, embarrassed dehumanized and started recording.”
The video shows Walker arguing with the manager about whether he has seen Walker’s military information. The manager grabs his leftovers as Walker talks over him.
“You have a great day,” the manager says before walking away with the to-go box.
“Yes, I did just provide documents for you, and they saw you,” Walker replies.
The video reveals a very upset Walker arguing with a manager, who refuses to answer his questions regarding if he had shown him his military papers or not.
For their part, the Chili’s organization have apologized through a prepared statement, and say they are reaching out to Walker, although he says they have not gotten in touch with him, personally.
“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,” the statement said. “We are taking this very seriously and the leaders in our company are actively involved with the goal of making it right.”
And I hope they do make it right.
Is this what we can expect, long term, surrounding a Trump presidency? It’s disheartening and wrong, and I pray this is an anomaly, rather than something we should expect to be the new norm.