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Chili’s Apologizes After Manager Takes Meal From Veteran

The Chili’s Bar & Grill restaurant chain has apologized and vowed to correct a wrongdoing by one its managers, who took away a meal from a U.S. Army veteran from the Dallas area.

U.S. Army veteran Ernest Walker, 47, of Cedar Hill, said he was served the meal as part of a “free meal to Veterans” promotion on Friday, Veterans Day. He had finished his food and was preparing to leave the restaurant when the trouble began. Walker was accompanied by his service dog named “Barack.”

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Walker said he believes an elderly man wearing an American flag shirt and Trump sticker told the restaurant manager that Walker was not a U.S. veteran and should not receive the free meal because he was wearing his cap indoors.

In an encounter captured on video by Walker and posted to Facebook, the manager asked for Walker’s military ID, which he provided. Walker also provided his discharge paperwork.

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Walker said the manager then took his to-go meal. 

“I looked around and I’m embarrassed at this point,” Walker said. “People are looking. I’m a soldier. I’m a person and everybody’s looking like I stole food.”

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The manager also indicated the service dog was not a service dog despite having a red service vest and certified service tags.

On Sunday, Chili’s issued the following statement on Walker’s Facebook page and to NBCDFW. It reads:

“We are aware of the situation that occurred at our Chili’s Cedar Hill restaurant on November 11th. 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. Since the incident occurred, we have extended an apology and we are reaching out to the guest.”

“They’re doing what they should do, but they still haven’t validated me as a soldier,” said Walker. “I just need him to say ‘I see your ID, I see your DD214, and I respect you as a soldier, and as a man and as a customer’.”

Walker said he served in the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, serving from 1987 to 1991. He said he was in an Army uniform without his name or rank on it on Veterans Day because he did not want to be mistaken for an active-duty soldier.

“And I wear this one day a year,” said Walker. “I’m not some kook that’s reliving the past.”

Walker has retained an attorney, Kim Cole, who said she had a meeting planned with Chili’s corporate on Monday.

Chili’s media team did not respond to questions regarding whether the manager was disciplined. 

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