Walmart slammed for making veteran who was raising money for VFW sit outside in the rain
Thousands of people on Facebook have shared a photo of a veteran sitting by himself in the rain outside a Walmart in Dickson City, Pennsylvania
Veteran Manuel Griffin has been selling memorial poppies outside a Walmart in Dickson City, Pennsylvania for the past 20 years. Griffin's wife Maryann says that come rain or shine, her husband always makes it a point to show up in order to raise money and awareness for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), an organization that provides support to America's service members, veterans and their families.
However, Maryann says that Walmart told the 69-year-old veteran this year that due to the freezing weather, he could not sell his "buddy poppies" under the covered area of the store.
"Buddy poppies" are made by needy and disabled veterans in VA hospitals across the country, reported Fox News.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Maryann explained: "As it was pouring rain, he was told he couldn’t stay at the protected area and that he would have to go out in the rain and 15 feet away from the building as per the store manager."
The old-timer's wife posted a photograph of her husband, sitting outside in the rain with his hands folded, donning military regalia. The image was shared by more than 7,100 users as of Tuesday morning.
Maryann claimed that the photo was sent to her by a passerby who resonated with her feelings. "Way to go WALMART....commendable way to treat our veterans who fought for your freedom.....Disgrace," remarked Maryann.
Several social media users called the retail giant's decision as "disgrace" as they commented on the photo. Some even suggested that residents in the region should boycott the store.
"Regardless of what he was selling or for whom, they had regularly allowed him to do so. Basic human kindness should have stepped in here. Thanks for his service, both in the past and in the present!" one Facebook user wrote.
"All American stores and restaurants are getting ridiculous with their policies. People grow up these could be our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers or grandparents that fought in the wars. They could be related to anyone of us and we allow our fellow man to degrade them like this. I'm getting more ashamed of you all," another added.
"This is a kick in the face to someone who puts their life on the line so Walmart can resort to disgraceful acts to our military! I encourage everyone to boycott Walmart," one man echoed.
While talking to WNEP, some shoppers suggested that there should be an alternative option for the veteran.
“It was not even human. You don’t do that to people like that. It ain’t right,” said Chester Gunderman.
“How you could make a gentleman who fought for our country and risked his life for our freedom sit in the rain while he is trying to sell something to remember those who went before him?” Beth Bonacci asked.
WNEP approached Griffin for comment on the situation but he declined to address it. Griffin's close friend, David Ragan, praised him by saying that he is one of the most humble people he's known, and that being the kind of person he is, he probably did not want to make the whole affair about himself. Ragan said that his friend wants the focus to remain on the plight of veterans collectively and not just on himself.
“He is going to do what he has to do for his VFW, and he wants to make sure he is representing them the same way we did when we wore the uniform,” Ragan told WNEP.
When the news station approached the store manager, he pushed back by saying that he was simply implementing store policy that came into effect two years ago — those collecting money had to be 15 feet from the doorway. Having said that, the manager later empathized with Griffin's cause and provided canopies for veterans and others who were raising money for various causes. Promising that he would help such cases in the future, he brought out a cover for Griffin.
“The whole goal is how can we make a bad situation better, and I think both sides want that continued relationship,” said Ragan.
That being said, Griffin's military resolve was not even a tad discouraged by the rain. He went back to his post the next morning to sit 4-hours straight for his noble cause.
"Thank you for the overwhelming support to our veterans and the disrespect shown at a local Walmart," Maryann wrote on Saturday. "Thank you again for your wonderful response and support!"
On its website, the VFW explains that the "Buddy Poppy program provides compensation to the veterans who assemble the poppies, provides financial assistance in maintaining state and national veterans' rehabilitation and service programs and partially supports the VFW National Home For Children."
Manuel Griffin was in front of the store again on Saturday — this time in the sun — collecting donations for service members. Many people stopped to donate to the 69-year-old veteran on Saturday and received a poppy for their support.