A U.S. Army veteran has turned a negative experience into a positive one by launching a campaign to feed hungry and homeless vets after he was denied a free meal at the Chili’s Bar and Grill in Cedar Hill, Texas, in observance of Veterans Day.
Ernest Walker told the Charlotte Observer he was surprised someone had set up a GoFundMe account after the incident to pay for dinner for him as well as his family.
“It turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” Walker said. “We decided to use those funds to give back to others in need.”
The Observer reports:
A GoFundMe account that was set up to help buy dinner for the family of Ernest Walker, the 47-year-old Army veteran who had his to-go box taken away by a Chili’s restaurant manager in November, served as the seed for his campaign called Feed a Million Veterans.
On Saturday, a Luby’s [restaurant] manager said Walker fed about 80 veterans.
According to the Army veteran, many of the veterans who benefited from his campaign last weekend are homeless.
In a video that went viral after Walker posted the footage on social media, a Chili’s manager, identified by the Army veteran as Wesley Patrick, is shown snatching Walker’s to-go box.
Walker went to the Chili’s restaurant chain to take advantage of its Veterans Day offer of a free meal.
However, when he attempted to leave to pick up his wife, the manager told Walker a different customer had said he is “not a real soldier because [he] had [his] hat on indoors,” Walker wrote on Facebook.
The manager then refused to acknowledge the Army veteran’s military documents and took away his to-go box.
Walker’s bad experience did not end there. He has been driven out of his home by threats he received after a news outlet reporting on his story inadvertently revealed his home address.
Following a formal apology from Chili’s corporate office, the manager has been fired.
Citing Walker, the Observer reveals that “Chili’s, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, the Salvation Army, Die Empty Dallas, 411 Mag Ministries, and the Veterans Outreach Program have all pledged their support to the Feed a Million Veterans program.”
“We’ve sent more than 300 kids and vets to Mavs games,” noted Walker. “We’re not talking about nosebleed seats either. We’re talking $200 tickets.”