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Injured soldiers caught in the crossfire

I'm still down at the IRMCO conference for one more day and I'll discuss the conference more as the week goes on, but I want to come back to this baffling story about Fran O'Brien's Stadium Steakhouse.

Fran O'Brien's has been the host for Friday night dinners for severely wounded soldiers. Inexplicably, the Hilton hotel chain is booting them. I pointed to the WP story earlier. Well, last night, the CBS Evening News carried a story about this case. Unfortunately I don't seem to be able to point you directly to the video of the story, but if you go to this page and click on the "CBS Evening News" on the left column and then scroll down to the story, "Iraq Vet Dinners In Jeopardy? … A Vietnam veteran decided to invite some wounded soldiers from the Iraq war to a Washington restaurant, and the dinners soon became weekly events. But as David Martin reports, now there's a problem"... you should be able to find it.

Ed Meagher has been at all but four of these dinners – and if you spend more than 10 seconds with him, you will feel his passion for these soldiers.

Various places have volunteered to host the dinners through May, but Meagher says there is something special about Fran O'Brien's. He tells stories about some of these soldiers who are embarrassed by their injuries. He told of one who came to Fran O'Brien's the first time and even came in the back door and then sat in the back of the restaurant, but as he became more comfortable and Fran O'Brien's became home, he eventually made his way to the bar. These experiences are part of their recovery.

Apparently the Hilton is taking all sorts of heat for this – and rightfully so. And the whys are unclear. Apparently the Hilton is saying that this is an issue about compliance with the American with Disabilities Act. Others reports say it is a money thing. When it comes right down to it, it doesn't matter.

This is one of these PR nightmares. What were the folks at the Hilton thinking? This is a story that writes itself – soldiers caught in the crossfire – again! Apparently the American Legion has said that it will not hold any of its events at Hilton hotels.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Apr 25, 2006 at 12:15 PM


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