Fact Check

Red Lobster Refuses to Donate to POWs

Red Lobster restaurant refuses to donate gift certificate to POW's family?

Published April 14, 2003


Claim:   Red Lobster restaurant refuses to donate gift certificate to POW's family.

Status:   False.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2003]

Hello everyone. As you probably already know, 2 of Brian's former platoon members, Ron Young & Dave Williams, have been captured by Iraqi troopers when their aircraft landed in the wrong area. Dave Williams' wife, Michelle, lives here in Killeen. The wives of 1/227 went to all of the surrounding stores & restaurants asking if they would give Dave's wife & children gift certificates for food or merchandise. Every place they went, gave over & beyond what was asked. McDonald's gave $150 in food certificates to Dave's family and also stated they would cater all FRG (Family Readiness Group) Meetings and provide child care w/Ronald McDonald. These meetings take place once a month, but what a nice gesture. However, the only restaurant that absolutely refused to give any form of certificate was Red Lobster. They informed that if they "did it for his family, they would have to do it for every family that had a crisis." This was an outrage considering this business is only open because Killeen is a military town.

Upon hearing this, one of the wives who's husband also is a pilot with 1/227, was livid. She waited until the next business day at 12:30 PM and marched in Red Lobster and asked if she could speak with the manager. She asked their reason why they refused to donate a certificate for $20, $10 or even $5 for Dave's wife & children to eat and was told the same lousy excuse. That's when she got really loud. Now you have to know, lunch time here in Killeen is very busy and most restaurants are filled with
large tables of soldiers eating together. She started telling everyone in the restaurant that Dave was currently a POW and that Red Lobster wouldn't donate even $5 to his family to eat on. Entire tables of 10-15 people, both soldiers & civilians, started to get up and walk out. One LTC stopped and asked her what was going on. When she told him, he looked at the manager and said he wouldn't be back and would tell everyone he knows not to eat there again.

I just wanted to let everyone know that I won't be eating at Red Lobster either. Ron Young, one of the POW, was a very close friend to Brian & me. Madeline called him "Ms Ron". I hate to say that I only met Dave & his wife, Michelle, twice and didn't really get to know them. They had only been with the Unit 2 months before Brian left. We are all praying for their safe return & God speed.

It infuriates me to no end to know that a restaurant does not support our troops. Especially when the majority of the people that eat there are soldiers and their families.

Origins:   According to the Killeen Daily Herald:

In the age of electronic mail, information travels fast, true or otherwise.

This week e-mails about the local Red Lobster's supposed refusal to help military families reached in boxes across the country and around the world. The Killeen Daily Herald received forwards from Hawaii and Louisiana and received reports that the e-mail had reached several other U.S. states,
including Hawaii, and Germany.

The e-mail retracting the story apparently did not spread as quickly.

Major Vic Harris, deputy public affairs officer for the 1st Cavalry Division on Fort Hood, said the whole affair was a miscommunication and a misunderstanding.

"E-mail makes the rumor mill spread much faster than it ever did in the past," Harris said.

The e-mail that most people saw, originally sent Monday and forwarded throughout the week, relayed a second-hand story that wives of 1st Cav 1st Battalion 227th Aviation Unit were soliciting donations from stores and restaurants for Michelle Williams, the wife of Dave Williams, who is being held prisoner of war in Iraq. The e-mail stated that Red Lobster was the only business in town that refused to donate a gift certificate even after two requests.

Harris said the story is untrue. The author of the original e-mail, who could not be reached Friday, has since apologized and attempted to rectify the situation by sending corrected e-mails. That woman's husband reportedly is a former member of the 1/227.

"I never meant for my e-mail to get circulated like it did," she wrote in a second e-mail on Wednesday. "It was originally sent to only family members and very close friends, mostly out-of-state. Last night, I received an e-mail from someone I didn't know telling me, along with other people, the issue with Red Lobster was false. I couldn't believe it was the same e-mail I had sent. The e-mail had a lot of things added to it that weren't in my original text."

Red Lobster spokeswoman Wendy Spirduso explained that the restaurant was out of gift certificates when the group first requested a donation. The restaurant later gave a $20 gift certificate for the family and is working with Fort Hood on further support.

The Dallas division, which includes the Killeen restaurant, had already collected 250 cases of personal hygiene items and snacks to send to soldiers.

"We understand that everyone's on edge with the war in Iraq," Spirduso said. "I know that the woman who sent the e-mail is a fine person who is showing her concern for the troops and their families. We all are concerned about the troops and we're all trying to respond in our own way."

Spirduso said the chain has received many calls and e-mails about the incident, but said that the rumors have not hurt business in Killeen or elsewhere.

Harris said the Army highly discourages spouses soliciting businesses on behalf of families and has communicated the message to the 1/227 Family Readiness Group. The Army can't stop spouses from soliciting because they are civilians, but Harris said he thinks the group got the message.

Harris said no business should feel strong-armed into donating and that businesses throughout the community have been generous in contributing without requests, including Red Lobster.

Harris said Williams' family has been well compensated and well taken care of and feels uncomfortable with all the gifts that have been given. He said Mrs. Williams appreciates the generosity, but she is not a welfare case.

And Red Lobster followed up with a response to our inquiry:

Thank you for your interest in Red Lobster; it is always a pleasure to hear from our guests.

We at Red Lobster certainly share the eagerness to get our soldiers home safely to their families. We, like so many Americans, have family and friends deployed in Iraq. We are extremely concerned about the war and want to do whatever we can to help our troops.

I wanted you to know that Red Lobster provided the POW family with a $20 gift certificate and we continue working with people at Fort Hood to see what else we can do to be of assistance to that family. In addition, the entire Dallas Division Division — 90 restaurants from Texas to Oklahoma, Kansas to Arkansas — has collected personal hygiene items and snacks for the troops when they were first deployed. In four days, the restaurants, including the Red Lobster in Killeen, collected 250 cases of materials. The Dallas Division's executive assistant is the Family Readiness Officer for the Army Reserve's 95th Division and she worked with the Division to coordinate all the materials we sent overseas. Killeen has also supplied military families with food and coupons for their support meetings and has donated gift certificates for raffles at military family support events.

We have been in Killeen for 12 years and love the community. Indeed, when the restaurant burned down several years ago, we rebuilt because so many residents showed their support and urged us to rebuild.

I know that the woman who sent the e-mail is a fine person who is showing her concern for the troops and their families. Unfortunately she may not have been aware of all the restaurant has done to help our soldiers. Thank you, as always, for contacting us and letting us know what's on your mind.

Last updated:   3 September 2007

  Sources Sources:

    Putnam, Jenifer.   "False Story Irks Eatery."

    Killeen Daily Herald.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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