A black veteran whose free meal was taken from him by a Chili’s manager on Veteran’s Day has been chased out of his home by death threats and abuse after he shared his story in the media.
Ernest Walker, 47, of Cedar Hill, Texas, was told by the manager that an elderly white veteran in a Trump shirt had complained that Walker wasn’t a ‘real soldier’. His meal was taken away even though he presented his military ID and discharge papers.
After the incident went public Chili’s apologized. But that victory was quickly soured by death threats and menacing phone calls – and now he’s had to flee his home, NBCDFW reported.
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Vet Ernest Walker (right) had his free Veteran’s Day meal taken away by a Chili’s manager in Texas after a white man said he didn’t believe he was a soldier – despite Walker’s documents
Walker (left, in the 25th Infantry Division) has received death threats and a suspicious package since his story went viral. One person even threatened to kill his service dog, Barack (right)
Since his story went viral, Walker’s address, contact information and even Social Security Number have been made public.
His home has been called by people on blocked numbers who say that they found his details online.
Callers have threatened his life and said they looked up details of his children on social media, and he has received a suspicious package.
One person even threatened to kill his service dog, Barack.
So Walker, who served in the 25th Infantry Division in the US Army, and wife Debbie left their house on November 13, two days after Veteran’s Day, and still haven’t moved back.
‘We don’t feel safe in our home,’ Walker said.
‘We’ve been living there for 18 years and now that our address has just been posted [online] permanently, we are now feeling like we are going to sell our property because we’ll never feel safe there.’
Walker’s attorney, Lee Merritt, told the Star-Telegram that many of the threats ‘seem to come from ex-military who have chosen to believe that Mr Walker has stolen valor.’
Merritt says that Walker’s address was initially leaked by a news outlet, but did not say which one.
Walker added: ‘There are people out there who have hatred and there is nothing you can do to change it, it’s a poison in their system.’
The manager (pictured) was recorded removing the Chili’s meal. The restaurant has since apologized. But Walker’s woes continued after he was chased from his home by the threats
Walker’s troubles began on Veteran’s Day when he went to the Chili’s in Cedar Hill for his free meal.
He was wearing a uniform, including a cap, when he says he was approached by an elderly white man in a Trump shirt who asked him if he was in the 24th Unit.
‘No, 25th,’ Walker replied.
‘”They didn’t let you blacks over in World War II,” That’s exactly what he said to me,’ Walker told CBS 11.
African-Americans did serve in World War II although officially segregated from white soldiers, according to The National World War II Museum.
After the man left, Walker, who recounted the incident on Facebook, said he was approached by a manager who told him that the elderly man had complained that Walker couldn’t be a ‘real soldier’ because he was wearing his hat indoors.
Walker’s attorney says that those harassing the veteran seem to believe that Walker has ‘stolen valor’. Walker and his wife now want to sell their home
He identified the manager as a man named Wesley Patrick and filmed the altercation.
After Walker provided the manager with his military ID and his discharge papers, the manager began to question whether Walker’s dog, Barack, was a real service dog.
Barack was wearing his red service vest and his certified service dog tags.
In the video, Walker repeatedly asks the manager, who is trying to get him to leave, whether he had just showed him his military papers. The manager refuses to answer.
Finally, the manager says ‘No’ but people nearby speak up to say he had seen them.
The manager then takes away Walker’s meal.
‘I was grossly offended, embarrassed and dehumanized,’ said Walker.
‘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. Honestly, that’s what it looked like,’ he told CBS Local.
Chili’s apologized for the incident, saying they ‘fell short’ and that ‘these actions do not reflect the beliefs of our brand,’ and put the manager on suspension.
A GoFundMe page was set up with a $100 goal to buy Walker food, but raised $6,245. Walker said that he would use the money to feed veterans on December 14, his birthday.
And Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban offered free tickets to Walker and other veterans during the fallout.