Chili’s Grill & Bar apologized to an Army veteran who was humiliated by a restaurant manager when he doubted his military service and confiscated his free meal on Veterans Day.
Ernest Walker, 47, ordered food at a Chili’s eatery in Cedar Hill, Texas, on November 11. The Tex-Mex chain is among several restaurants that offer complimentary meals to both current and former service members on Veterans Day each year. Walker was waiting for his to-go order with his service dog, who was wearing a certified service tag and vest.
An elderly diner approached Walker and proceeded to question him about his military service. Walker, who was a member of the Army’s 25th Infantry Division from 1987 to 1991, was asked which unit he served. The man accused him of lying, saying “he was in Germany, and that they did not let blacks serve over there,” according to a post on Walker’s Facebook page.
Walker, who is black, dismissed the comments. However, a restaurant manager later stopped him from leaving with his food. The Chili’s employee said a fellow customer declared Walker was not a veteran because he was wearing his hat indoors and that he had lied about the service dog.
The manager demanded identification and kept on questioning Walker. Eventually, he took away Walker’s meal even though the veteran presented his military ID and discharge papers.
An upset Walker recorded part of his conversation with the restaurant manager on video, which he later posted on Facebook. The veteran said the incident left him feeling “grossly offended, embarrassed, dehumanized.”
On November 14 the restaurant chain’s president released a statement saying Chili’s had apologized to Walker and placed the manager involved in the incident on administrative leave. However, many Facebook users argued he should have been fired instead.