Ernest Walker, a veteran who was refused a free meal at the Chili’s Bar and Grill in Cedar Hill, Texas, during Veterans Day observances has turned the horrific and embarrassing situation into something awesome.
He’s now using the experience to help feed hungry and homeless veterans in the north Texas area.
Walker went to the Chili’s in Cedar Hill on Veterans Day for the chain’s promotion of a free meal for veterans. Later, as he 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. Walker said his family was forced to move from his residence because of threats he received after the incident and the house has been listed for sale.
After seeing the video, a person close to Walker created a GoFundMe campaign just to buy him a meal, but people kept donating and it reached over $6,000.
So the 47-year-old Army veteran used that as the seed money for his campaign called Feed a Million Veterans.
On Saturday, Walker invited veterans to eat for free at a local restaurant, Luby’s. Many of those veterans were bused to Luby’s and are homeless, Walker said. The dinner was an appreciation dinner for veterans and their families. Unlike Walker’s experience at Chili’s, no veteran was required to show their ID. They just showed up.
“It turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” Walker said. “We decided to use those funds to give back to others in need.”
Chili’s, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, the Salvation Army, Die Empty Dallas, 411MagMinistries and the Veterans Outreach Program have all pledged their support to the Feed a Million Veterans program, Walker said. Cuban has been particularly helpful, providing a gift bag for veterans participating in Saturday’s dinner that included a T-shirt and a blanket, Walker said.
Walker’s Feed A Million Soldiers, aims to help veterans deal with the challenges they face as they move from military to civilian life.