It all began on this past Veterans Day when U.S. Army veteran 47-year old Ernest Walker went into a Cedar Hill, Texas, Chili’s Restaurant to take advantage of their offer of a free meal for veterans. He had entered the place wearing an army uniform without his name or rank. His thought was he didn’t want to be mistaken for someone on active duty.
Shortly after he was handed a to-go box, the man at the counter grabbed it away from him. It turned out that he was the manager. What followed was an unbelievable nightmare for Walker.
Another customer previously told the manager, Wesley Patrick, that Walker was not a “real soldier” because he was wearing his hat indoors. Patrick asked Walker for his military ID; he did so and also provided his discharge papers. It was then that Patrick took away his to-go box. He recalled:
“I looked around and I’m embarrassed at this point. People are looking. I’m a soldier. I’m a person and everybody’s looking like I stole food.”
Then adding insult to the situation, Patrick told Walker his dog was not a service dog. This was totally uncalled for since his dog was wearing a red service vest and had certified service tags.
Fortunately, Walker had recorded the entire event, which he later posted on Facebook. Needless to say, Chili’s Grill & Bar later apologized for the incident and Patrick was suspended until an investigation into the matter was completed.
But, the nightmare continued. After speaking publicly about the incident, his personal information (home address, phone number, and Social Security number) was released to the public by a news outlet. Soon thereafter, he began receiving harrassing phone calls from blocked numbers with one threatening his service animal.
Lee Merritt, Walker’s attorney, said:
“Many of the threats has reviewed seem to come from ex-military who have chosen to believe that Mr. Walker has stolen valor. But also, there are veterans who have come to Mr. Walker’s aid, of other races.”
Now here is the sorry end of this nightmare: he and his wife had to move out of his house and are now staying in a motel as a matter of precaution.
One good thing to come out of this story after his Facebook posting is that Walker started receiving donations rising up to $6000 by November 22, 2016. He will be donating those funds to help needy veterans.
And one more good thing: Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team, offered Walker season tickets. Cuban also followed up his generous offer by saying he would donate money to feed veterans.
This whole story was the result of a false stolen valor accusation. And that’s a sad thing for us veterans to see this happen to anyone.
Note: the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 states that falsely claiming to be a veteran and/or falsely wearing medals is legal. However, it is illegal to intend to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit from doing so.
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