Army veteran humiliated on Veterans Day when Chili’s takes back his free meal

Ernest Walker (in uniform) with supporters at Chili’s. Image from Facebook.

An Army veteran’s story went viral this weekend when he posted a video to Facebook about the service he received at his local Chili’s Grill and Bar.

Ernest Walker, a veteran who served in the Army’s 25th Infantry Division Tropic Lightning, visited a Chili’s restaurant In Cedar Hill, Texas on Veterans Day and requested a free meal. As with many restaurants, the company offered free meals to Veterans and active duty military all day.

But after the waitress served his meal and he requested a to-go box, a fellow patron and veteran challenged his military service. Minutes later, Walker was approached by the restaurant manager and told that his status as a veteran was being questioned because he was wearing a hat indoors. Things went like this according to Walker’s FB post:

“He asked for my military ID, I was calm, and provided it to him. I also provided him with my DD214 which is my discharge paperwork. At that point he should have just said “I am sorry Sir, thank you for your service’ Instead he followed up with “the guest also said your dog is not a service dog.” Barack had his Red Service Vest on, and his Certified Service Tags.” 

That’s when Walker began recording his exchange with the manager:

Walker’s post was widely shared and as Facebook users flooded Chili’s page, the company responded saying they were aware of the situation, their service had fallen short and they had escalated the investigation.

From the comments, it seems Walker wasn’t the only vet who had issues at Chili’s on Veterans Day.

Another veteran noted that he and his wife were embarrassed when his military status was challenged by a Chili’s employee who did not understand that a “V” on the bottom right corner of a Florida driver’s license is a Veteran designation and can be used to show proof of status.

Walker has since posted numerous images of himself in uniform during his time in the military as a soldier and chaplain. Many members of the armed forces posted messages of support and civilians thanked Walker for his service to the country, but some responders accused him of “race-baiting” and asked him to post copies of his military documents online before they would “stand behind him.”

One commenter questioned the breed of his service dog suggesting that pit bulls can’t be service dogs (They can, but areas with breed specific legislation can make it harder for dogs that look a certain way to be trained as service animals.)

Local news outlets reported a small protest outside of the Chili’s where it all happened and said attorneys are working to resolve the issue between Walker and the restaurant.

Reader Comments 0

222 comments
Darwin D Delaney
Darwin D Delaney

The to go box is usually for left overs that you did not finish and the ex manager said he would not talk to him if he kept recording a simple thank you for your service that's all he needed to say very petty taking away the left over box very petty hope he took it home he will need it.

Mark Saunders
Mark Saunders

Funny, if he was served the meal and immediately asked for go-box that could be why he was denied a meal. The rules of the promotion were (dine-in-only , with Military ID).

While I realize that most restaurants would accommodate, but they have no obligation to. You can't expect a waiter/waitress to be able to interpret a DD214 or understand that a 'v' on a DL means "veteran" (I'm a veteran and never heard of that).

So if someone did not understand the rules of the promotion and got "humiliated" then it's their own fault.

I've seen other accounts of Walker interview where he said he had just FINISHED his meal when his service was allegedly questioned. So which is it? Did get his meal taken away or not? Did he try to scam a second meal.? Or is the whole thing just based on lies?

Aonarach Faol
Aonarach Faol

The his was back during Desert Shield/Storm. Knew a Guardsman in Chicago and we started talking about them compare to C-Rats which as a civilian I was more familiar with hearing about. He brought me one to try.

Aonarach Faol
Aonarach Faol

I tried an MRE once, ham and turkey if I remember correctly, and didn't think it was that bad. Understand a lil Tabasco sauce adds a zing.

Aonarach Faol
Aonarach Faol

Marie buddy who had been in DS/S told me about the Tabasco.

Aonarach Faol
Aonarach Faol

Have yet to ever eat at Chili's, now question if I ever will.

No_PC
No_PC

Watched the video with an open mind and like many other clips like this, you cannot generalize one way or the other. If it were me and i chose to give free food to vets on veterans day, i would ask for ID from all service members but i would not fight with a patron to prove a point. It's not worth being wrong, as was seen here. As for service dogs, that's not a cut and dry thing. You can go print a certificate from the internet and the company will mail out a kit that makes you "Official" but doesn't require anything more than a credit card.

Mark Saunders
Mark Saunders

You should probably watch the video again, and this time a bit more "objectively". I do not see the manager "fighting" with a veteran. The only one I see raising his voice is Mr. Walker. And the way he keeps screaming about his credentials while the manager appears to very calmly trying to say "Sir" "Sir" as if he wants to change the subject (maybe to why he is really taking this go-box away). But Walker refuses to let the man talk. I wouldn't characterize that as "getting in a fight with a patron".

According to Walker's earlier accounts he had alreedy finished his meal when he was confronted. So why do all the headlines read "veteran has free meal taken away?"

Charlene Comeaux
Charlene Comeaux

This is so pathetic, don't offer free meals if you are no going to honor them. We were at Applebee's and all the service guys there were honored and their papers were not even requested even though they showed them anyway

Kimberly Price
Kimberly Price

I was so shocked about Chili's not supporting our veterans

Kyle Hill
Kyle Hill

It don't matter what uniform you wear, if your black that's all they see!!

Lynn Thomas
Lynn Thomas

Incident would never have happened if the moronic ex-manager had an ounce of common sense and/or respect for the veteran....

NewsFan58
NewsFan58

Nobody would want someone pretending to be a veteran to get the benefits of true veterans, so when another veteran questioned his status, the server was right to ask for verification.  However, once he saw that, he shouldn't have questioned the dog.  (The server is young and was just trying to satisfy the other customer. We all learn from our mistakes.)

Michael Koch
Michael Koch

Sounds to me like that Chili's manager needs to find some other means to support himself where he doesn't need a brain or people skills. Unfortunately, even though most respect the military service of our veterans, many still don't . This man showed credentials for his military service and for his service dog. I hope this manager gets sued, and Chilis too for being stupid enough to hire such an imbecile.

Ruben DeLeon
Ruben DeLeon

My husband got a free meal on veteran's day, he had to show his card that he actually served, did this guy actually serve, or just come in a uniform? ?? Makes me wonder. ..

Brian Anderson
Brian Anderson

Chili's is about to get so much bad press because of this scrony manager disrespecting a vet. As a former restaurant manager and got enough education to know that African Americans did serve in WWII, this moron should had known. Chili's apology is the right thing to do, but they're going to have to back that up. As for the moron, get used to being unemployed, because your face has been plastered all over the place. And as a vet and the son of veterans, we appreciate all that vet has done for his country.

Marshalle Rush
Marshalle Rush

RACISM is ALIVE and WELL! It never left, as AMERICANS we must EXPOSE TRUTHS about this RADICAL SNAKE!

Donna Heald
Donna Heald

If you are going to offer a free meal or discount to a particular group of people, train staff to recognize their creds. This sounds like the main office didn't think this through...

Larry Tippitt
Larry Tippitt

I'll never eat at chili's again , the last two times we ate there the food was cold and they screwed up my son n laws order, but this manager should be fired for what he did , the veteran showed him his ID and papers he still took his food , they only apologized when the news media got involved, chili's sucks .

Antonio Kinard
Antonio Kinard

The Vet should get his attorney to sue Chili's. Enough said....

Mary Craft
Mary Craft

Him just apologizing would have been just too right!

Shaka Anum Semaj
Shaka Anum Semaj

It doesn't stop there. Many people are routinely treated unfairly quite often.

Jessa Nichole Phillips
Jessa Nichole Phillips

Welcome to Trump's America where black veterans are treated like second class citizens

Dancene Gee
Dancene Gee

I can't believe this is true, Chili's should offer free food for a year that's the least they can do for this vet, another manager not qualified,shame on Chilis, disrespect a vet,you disrespect America! That manager needs to be fired and slapped! I wouldn't go to this restraunt!

Marge Hinojosa
Marge Hinojosa

Let me sat it sir, thank you for your service\U0001f64f\U0001f1f1\U0001f1f7

Joan Michel
Joan Michel

All this over one meal. I would have paid for the meal and had some not very lady like words for the age.

Jean Maddox
Jean Maddox

This is so stupid of a person to treat another human being like this,\U0001f620\U0001f620!!!!

Rosa A Mambru
Rosa A Mambru

He needs to be FIRED!!!!!! Lets see him struggle for a new job and then try to apply to join one of our military branches...

T Lee Wade
T Lee Wade

iwould not ever set my foot back in that place.