A Black U.S. Army veteran was questioned about his military credentials and was humiliated by a Cedar Hill, Texas, Chili’s restaurant manager because other customers doubted the man served in the armed forces.
On Veterans Day, November 11, Ernest Walker wanted to take part in the restaurant’s annual free-meal promo offering veterans a free hot dish for their service, but he was denied.
According to CBS Dallas Fort Worth, customers dining at the restaurant looked at Walker suspiciously because his uniform, purchased after retirement, did not have a name tag. Some patrons also didn’t believe his service dog was real. So Walker began to record his encounter with the manager as events unraveled.
The manager then asked for Walker’s discharge papers and identification. And the veteran obliged. “He should have said, ‘Thank you for your service; I’m sorry,'” Walker told reporters. “Instead of him saying that, he says to me, ‘Well, he [another customer] says your service dog is not real.’”
However, the manager was still not convinced of Walker’s military service and removed his food anyway, as Walker’s cellphone footage shows.
“You’ve questioned my military service and you’ve questioned my service dog,” Walker says in the video as he continues to press the manager about whether his service dog is certified and ask if the manager saw his information. The manager does not answer, then takes the food.
Since the video’s posting on Saturday, it has been viewed over 100,000 times, sparking Chili’s response.
CBS Dallas Fort Worth received this statement addressing the backlash:
“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.”
But Walker tells the outlet that he did not personally receive an apology. “That’s fine. They got to do what they do. I’m not a company. I’m just me.” Walker and his attorney, Kim Cole, plan to have a face-to-face meeting with Brinker International, Chili’s parent company, though there are currently no talks of pending litigation, CBS Dallas Fort Worth reported. Walker does, however, plan to file assault charges against the Chili’s manager, who he said made physical contact while removing the meal. the news outlet reported.