Army veteran humiliated on Veterans Day when Chili's takes back his free meal

An Army veteran's story went viral this weekend when he posted a video to Facebook about the service he received at his local Chili's Grill and Bar.

Ernest Walker, a veteran who served in the Army's 25th Infantry Division Tropic Lightning, visited a Chili's restaurant In Cedar Hill, Texas on Veterans Day and requested a free meal. As with many restaurants, the company offered free meals to Veterans and active duty military all day.

But after the waitress served his meal and he requested a to-go box, a fellow patron and veteran challenged his military service. Minutes later, Walker was approached by the restaurant manager and told that his status as a veteran was being questioned because he was wearing a hat indoors. Things went like this according to Walker's FB post:

"He asked for my military ID, I was calm, and provided it to him. I also provided him with my DD214 which is my discharge paperwork. At that point he should have just said "I am sorry Sir, thank you for your service' Instead he followed up with "the guest also said your dog is not a service dog." Barack had his Red Service Vest on, and his Certified Service Tags." 

That's when Walker began recording his exchange with the manager:

Walker's post was widely shared and as Facebook users flooded Chili's page, the company responded saying they were aware of the situation, their service had fallen short and they had escalated the investigation.

From the comments, it seems Walker wasn't the only vet who had issues at Chili's on Veterans Day.

Another veteran noted that he and his wife were embarrassed when his military status was challenged by a Chili's employee who did not understand that a "V" on the bottom right corner of a Florida driver's license is a Veteran designation and can be used to show proof of status.

Walker has since posted numerous images of himself in uniform during his time in the military as a soldier and chaplain. Many members of the armed forces posted messages of support and civilians thanked Walker for his service to the country, but some responders accused him of "race-baiting" and asked him to post copies of his military documents online before they would "stand behind him."

One commenter questioned the breed of his service dog suggesting that pit bulls can't be service dogs (They can, but areas with breed specific legislation can make it harder for dogs that look a certain way to be trained as service animals.)

Local news outlets reported a small protest outside of the Chili's where it all happened and said attorneys are working to resolve the issue between Walker and the restaurant.

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About the Author

Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.