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Veteran, Who Had Free Chili's Meal Taken Away, To Meet With Company

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CEDAR HILL (CBSDFW.COM) - A North Texas veteran says he was disgraced and humiliated at a Chili's restaurant, on a day meant to honor and pay tribute. Now the U.S. Army veteran is asking the company to take action.

Ernest Walker and his attorney plan to meet with management at Dallas-based Brinker International, Chili's parent company, later today.

This past Friday, on Veterans Day, Walker and his service dog were enjoying the free meal that Chili's Restaurants across the country were offering to veterans. Dozens of restaurants and businesses had special offers for veterans.

Walker was wearing a military uniform without a nametag, which he purchased after retirement, when he says another customer at the Cedar Hill restaurant questioned whether he was actually in the service.

When a manager then questioned the veteran showed him his discharge papers and identification. "He should have said, 'thank you for your service; I'm sorry.' Instead of him saying that, he says to me, 'well he [the other customer] says your service dog is not real.'"

The manager can be seen on cell phone video taking Walker's food away anyway. Walker posted the video on YouTube after the incident.

Walker says he wants Brinker to take responsibility for the manager's actions. His attorney, Kim Cole, said, "I certainly hope that Brinker International takes a stand and makes it clear that they don't condone that type of behavior in their establishment."

The incident has drawn criticism from people all over the country. Over the last couple of days, hundreds of people have lashed out at the restaurant, calling on Chili's to apologize.

Brinker International sent CBS 11 News a written statement that read, in part, "Our goal is to make every guest feel special and unfortunately we fell short on a day where we serve more than 180,000 free meals as a small token to honor our Veterans and active military for their service, hence these actions do not reflect the beliefs of our brand. We are taking this very seriously and the leaders in our company are actively involved with the goal of making it right."

While the company responded to several people who criticized Chili's on Facebook, Walker says they have yet to reach out to him personally. Over the weekend the Army veteran said, "That's fine. They got to do what they do. I'm not a company. I'm just me."

Walker now hopes the face-to-face meeting, expected to happen later today, will be a positive step.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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