11-17: Chili’s

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece by Rebecca Shapiro which appeared in the Huffington Post. There is a political component to this story which I chose to leave out; it is racist and divisive. While I am really sick of the blatant racism in our country, Mr. Walker’s story transcends that ugliness and, in the end, reveals the heart of a true patriot.]

Many national food chains offered gratis meals to veterans on Veterans Day. Very nice gesture. But at least one customer, described below, ruined the sentiment.

Chili’s Apologizes for Taking Meal from Black Veteran on Veterans Day

U.S. Army veteran Ernest Walker started recording video when a manager at a Chili’s restaurant in Cedar Hill, Texas, questioned his military service and took away his food.

Like some other establishments around the country, Chili’s offered free meals to veterans and active military service members on Veterans Day. Walker wrote on his Facebook page that he was eating at Chili’s with his service dog … when an elderly customer … (political reference omitted) came up to him. “He said he was in Germany, and that they did not let Blacks serve over there,” Walker wrote.

Welcome home, thank you for your service.

Years ago a Vietnam Veteran told me why he never joined one of the service organizations. He told me he went to one of the local clubs to have a beer soon after his return from combat. A member sat down next to him and declared, stupidly, that “we had bigger bullets.” To this day I have no idea what that idiotic statement means. It resulted, however, in one less recruit for the organization.

More stupidity

Soon after, Walker said the restaurant’s manager approached him and said that a fellow customer said Walker was “not a real soldier because [he] had [his] hat on indoors.” He asked to see identification, and continued to question Walker. Eventually, he took his food away, even though Walker showed him his military ID and discharge paperwork.

[After] Walker posted the video … protesters organized outside the Chili’s restaurant to support him. Chili’s … said it elevated the situation to the highest levels of the company, and “fell short” on its “goal to make every guest feel special.”… (more politics omitted)

Since Walker’s story made headlines, supporters created a GoFundMe page to buy dinner for the veteran…. Walker wrote on Facebook that he was honored someone would create a page for him, but wanted to raise money on behalf of his fellow service members.

The Better Man Prevailed

“There are thousands of hungry Veterans that are Forgotten and Homeless,” he wrote. “So I challenge America to raise enough money to Feed A Million Soldiers.”

Chili’s and so many other establishments on Veterans Day showed good faith and a generous spirit that should not be dissuaded by the ignorance of a single manager and the asinine arrogance of a demented customer.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

 

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