The North Texas veteran who was denied a free meal at a Cedar Hill Chili's has received worldwide support since the incident.
Thousands of dollars have been raised on behalf of Ernest Walker since the Veterans Day fiasco. While he appreciates the help he's getting, he plans to use the money to pay it forward for other veterans.
It started with an ugly encounter with a manager at Chili's in Cedar Hill. Walker was denied his complimentary meal after someone questioned his service. But he not wants to turn that negative incident into a positive one.
“I mean thousands of people have offered me dinners, food, money,” the veteran said. “And I said, ‘You know what? I think God put me in this position to feed a million soldiers.’”
Since the incident, which Walker claims was discrimination and his attorney calls a civil rights violation, his story has gone viral. More than 260 people have donated online to buy walker another meal and raised more than $5,600.
“I make a living myself. It's not my money,” Walker said. “That money shouldn't come to me. I believe it should go for something good.”
Walker is teaming up with a group called “Die Empty Dallas’ to host future dinners for veterans as a part of a campaign to feed a million soldiers.
“Our goal is to start here in Dallas and to spread out throughout America, hosting dinners and events, letting them know you're welcome here and you don't need to show papers,” Amber Jackson with the organization explained.
The reaction to Chili's was swift on social media, with some even calling for a boycott of the restaurant chain. Chili's has since apologized to Walker. His attorney says they've been meeting with the company to hopefully resolve this outside of court.
“We are hoping to avoid litigation so Mr. Walker doesn't want to seem like he's after a quick money grab,” explained Attorney Lee Merritt. “Obviously, something was done wrong. We want the people responsible to be held accountable.”
The group plans to host a dinner in December to feed around 300 veterans towards their goal of one million. They say they hope to make it an annual event with other events throughout the year and said no one will need to show papers to prove that they're a vet.
Earlier this week, Chili's issued a statement that they removed that manager from the restaurant. Walker's attorney says the manager was fired.
Walker said he never wanted to ask for the manager to be fired. He just said they're both in a 'bad situation.'
Since the Veterans Day incident, Mark Cuban reached out to Walker and offered him tickets to Friday night’s Mavericks game as well as future games this season. He said he plans to take other veterans.
Cuban also offered to help with the campaign to feed one million veterans.