A Chili’s Bar & Grill in Dallas, Texas, apologized after refusing to give a Black veteran a free meal in celebration of Veteran’s Day, The Dallas Morning News reports.
Ernest Walker, a 47 year-old Black veteran from Cedar Hill, Texas, visited Chili’s on Friday decked out in army fatigues and accompanied by his service dog named “Barack,” the report says.
NBC Washington reports Walker served in the Army’s 25th Infantry Division from 1987 to 1991. According to Walker, a White man wearing a Donald Trump shirt approached him and challenged his military service. The man then walked to the back of the restaurant to report Walker to the restaurant’s staff, Walker told the news outlet.
Soon after, a waitress emerged and packed up Walker’s meal, the outlet writes. The restaurant’s manager followed and also questioned Walker’s legitimacy, arguing he was not a real soldier because he wore his baseball cap indoors, the Morning News reports.
Walker showed his military ID and discharge papers at the manager’s request, while the manager challenged the notion that “Barack” was not really a service dog. Walker told the outlet he took out his phone to capture the confrontation, then posted it to Facebook.
“Barack had his red service vest on, and his certified service tags,” Walker said in his Facebook post. “I was sitting for 35 minutes prior with Barack beforehand. At this point I was grossly offended, embarrassed dehumanized and started recording.”
Walker and the manager continue their heated exchange before the manager removed the take out box and walked to the back of the restaurant.
After Walker’s post went viral, Chili’s posted a written statement to his Facebook page offering an apology, NBC Washington reports.
“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.”
Walker says the chain has yet to reach out to him personally, according to the outlet.
“They’re doing what they should do, but they still haven’t validated me as a soldier,” Walker told the outlet. “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’.”