Threats force family of veteran denied meal at Chili's from home
FORT WORTH, Texas (Tribune News Service) — An Army veteran whose Veteran’s Day meal was taken away by a manager of Chili’s Grill & Bar has moved away from his home because of threatening phone calls received after the incident was publicized.
Ernest Walker, 47, went to a Chili’s restaurant in Cedar Hill on Veterans Day for the chain’s promotion of a free meal for veterans. Later, as Walker was getting ready to leave with a to-go box to pick up his wife, a manager he identified as Wesley Patrick approached him and said a customer told him that Walker is “not a real soldier because I had my hat on indoors,” and customers nearby could hear him, Walker wrote on Facebook.
The manager refused to acknowledge Walker’s military documents and took away his to-go box. The video of the incident went viral.
Lee Merritt, Walker’s attorney, said that since his client’s home address was inadvertently publicized by a news outlet, he has been threatened over the telephone and has received a suspicious package at his house.
“He, his wife and his dog have had to move out around the 13th and they’ve been out ever since,” Merritt said. “Veterans Day was on Nov. 11.”
Merritt said Walker is not hurting for a meal, however, and is exploring ways he can help veterans who are needy using the donations that have come his way since his story became public. Walker has also established a gofundme page to further that effort, Merritt said. The page has raised more than $6,000 as of 7 p.m. on Nov. 22.
The Dallas-based Chili’s restaurant chain has since apologized for the incident.
Merritt said he has not had an opportunity to pass along the threats to authorities. Some of the threats Walker has reviewed involve messages saying that they know where Walker lives and they have looked up the social media profiles for Walker’s adult children.
“Many of the threats [Walker] has reviewed seem to come from ex-military who have chosen to believe that Mr. Walker has stolen valor,” Merritt said. “But also, there are veterans who have come to Mr. Walker’s aid, of other races. There was this one man, he wants to set up a dinner with fellow veterans and that’s been great. Mr. Walker has been constantly trying to overcome the naysayers and is establishing this effort to try and help some of his fellow veterans.”
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