On Veteran's Day, it's customary for restaurants to give out free meals to members of the armed services, a minute symbol of gratitude for men and women who put their lives on the line for the sake of their countrymen—no matter who the president may be. And while a number businesses take part in the campaign, this past Friday, Ernest Walker, a 47-year-old who served in the 25th Infantry Division in the 1980s, decided to take his dog Barack to a Cedar Hill, Texas Chili's.
Still, what should been a pleasant meal ended with people picketing in the restaurant's parking lot, accusing Chili's of discrimination and needlessly humiliating an army veteran.
In a widely viewed Facebook post, Walker claims a man wearing a Donald Trump shirt approached him as he was finishing his hamburger, ranting about how African-Americans weren't allowed to serve in World War II (this, for the record, is factually untrue). Then, as Walker tells it, a manager came out and accused him of not being a "real soldier" because he was wearing a hat inside the restaurant. Though Walker handed the manager his military ID and discharge papers—and his dog was donning both a red service vest and certified service tags—the veteran was told to leave the restaurant.
"This overzealous manager comes out, and instead of talking to me man-to-man, he treated me as if I was a black man stealing a meal," Walker said, adding that he felt offended, embarrassed, and dehumanized. "Honestly, that's what it looked like."
Continuing to bicker with the manger, Walker started filming. Posted on both Facebook and YouTube, the manager can be seen snatching out of Walker's hands. And though Chili's has since offered a partial apology, stating that the incident doesn't reflect the beliefs of the restaurant's brand, Walker is really taking issue with the Trump supporter who sparked the altercation, as well as the country's current political climate.
"I do believe that the election has changed the hearts and changed the motives of people," Walker said. "[S]o much so that [the manager] believed in his heart and mind that after talking to the Trump supporter that I was stealing food."