People took to social media to vent their anger after employees at a Walmart in the Cleveland area reportedly asked a veteran Marine and his wife to take their charity campaign outside.
John Harkness, 69, was seen standing in front of the Medina, Ohio, Walmart on Nov. 28 when a passerby noticed him, Fox 8 reported. His wife, Lynn Harkness, was with him.
“There was a woman who came up to me and said ‘can I take your picture?’" John told Fox 8. "I said sure, so her husband took my picture and she went from there."
John and Lynn had been campaigning their Toys for Tots initiative at the local Walmart. An employee reportedly asked them to take their campaign outside.
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Lynn, who is the Toys for Tots Coordinator in Medina County, said the incident was not only disrespectful, but also brought health concerns for volunteers.
“We have the Auxiliary and the Marines helping they are in their 60s most of them and on up,” Lynn said. “A couple of the Marines have had cancer surgery and their health isn't the best, being out in the bad weather could damage their health.”
The picture of John outside the Walmart store was shared on social media, according to ABC 5. Dozens of people commented on it, saying the incident was disrespectful to Marines.
The picture (shown below) also included the name, photo and phone number of the manager who asked John and Lynn to move outside. ABC 5 blurred out the information on the photo, since the manager has reportedly received death threats since the incident.
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(Veteran Marine John Harkness standing outside Medina, Ohio, Walmart to campaign for the Toys for Tots charity. Photo Credit: Fox 8)
Harkness said they have been allowed to run their Toys for Tots campaign at the Walmart for the last 15 to 16 years. Some social media users blamed new management for the sudden change in policy.
Walmart issued the following statement to Fox 8 on Nov. 29 regarding the issue:
“If a Marine or anyone was treated with disrespect, that is unacceptable and we are looking into this matter further to get the facts. Walmart’s corporate policy across our more than 4500 stores does not allow this type of solicitation inside our stores and we apologize for any confusion about this policy. Most importantly, we are proud to support wonderful organizations like Toys for Tots, Girls and Boys Scouts, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross who are stationed outside our stores during the Holidays and other times.
"Finally, Walmart’s support of our men and women in uniform both during active service and when they return home is a privilege that we strive to honor each day through our commitment to hiring hundreds of thousands of Veterans as well as the many charitable Veteran organizations we are proud to support.”