From The Charlotte Observer (via WCNC):
The owner of a south Charlotte restaurant says he is “heartbroken” over an incident Sunday in which bantering between football fans got out of control, resulting in a U.S. Marine who lost both legs in Afghanistan being forced to leave the eatery with his wife, parents and friends.
Chris Neilsen, owner of the Moosehead Grill on Montford Drive, has been in contact with family members of Marine Garrett Carnes, of Mooresville, following the incident that Neilsen says “was awful.”
“I want to somehow make it right by them,” Neilsen says.
During a verbal altercation that some witnesses said almost came to blows, one patron allegedly told Carnes he was using his wheelchair “as an excuse.”
In an interview with The Observer, however, the fan said Carnes and members of his party were equally abusive. And he denied making a remark about the Marine’s wheelchair.
The incident happened after Carnes, his wife Courtney, their parents, and friends Brett and Nicole Coburn stopped at the restaurant for dinner after attending the Carolina Panthers’ game against Dallas. Several members of the party, including Garrett Carnes, were wearing Dallas Cowboys jerseys.
“Courtney was the first one out of the vehicle, and while she was getting Garrett’s wheelchair, one guy immediately started yelling at her,” said Brett Coburn, who described the man’s comments as “taunts.”
Coburn said that when the group reached the front door, the fan was waiting for them.
“He was standing at the door, and he started harassing us because of the Cowboys jerseys,” Coburn said.
He said the fan told Garrett Carnes, “Don’t use your wheelchair as a crutch.”
The fan, who did not want to give his name, gave a different account.
“Moosehead is a Panthers’ bar,” he said. “When they came, wearing the Cowboys’ jerseys, I started up on them. I asked them if they were Cowboys fans who lived in North Carolina.”
“I’m not going to fight someone in a wheelchair,” the fan said. “I said to him, ‘I’m not fighting you. Get four of your boys, and I’ll fight them.’ “
According to multiple accounts of the incident, Carnes told the patron – and others who were ridiculing the group for being Cowboys’ fans – that he was a veteran and had lost his legs in Afghanistan.
Members of the Carnes-Coburn party tried to “defend ourselves verbally,” Brett Coburn said.
“We were going back and forth,” the fan said. “Yes, it got out of control.”
The fan said one woman in the Carnes-Coburn party swore at him.
He said the fan walked toward Carnes in a threatening way, and some other patrons stepped in to break it up.
Neilsen said his employees are trained to separate possible combatants, in an effort to defuse such situations. On Sunday, staff members asked Garrett Carnes and his party to leave, while they took the fan to another area of the restaurant.
“It spiraled out of control,” Coburn says.
Courtney Carnes called police, but no charges were filed.
Neilsen said he arrived at the restaurant after the group had left and was in the parking lot, talking to police.
“I didn’t want them to leave,” he said of the Carnes-Coburn party, “but I understand why they left. I’m miserable. My heart hurts for them.”
He said the trouble was caused by people who “are not regulars” at the restaurant and added that the fan was not welcome to return.
Carnes, who is still undergoing treatment for his wounds at a Washington-area hospital, is trying to stay out of the dispute, Coburn said. Carnes’ mother, Rhonda, addressed a note to restaurant patrons on Facebook, saying, “Why didn’t any of you stand up for my son and daughter? And to think my son almost died for every single person in that bar, by defending all your freedom.”
The fan told the Observer, “He (Carnes) is a veteran, and I appreciate what he did for this country. But I don’t appreciate how abusive they were.”
Cedar Posts Blog has identified the culprit by name. I won’t follow suit, but I will note that the original issue of the Charlotte Observer story identified the individual responsible as “Tank.” They have since removed this from the report.
To learn more about Marine Corporal Garrett Carnes, read this earlier Charlotte Observer report. My initial inclination was to inform “Tank” that I would like to meet him at a place and time of his choosing, and I would be happy to wear a Dallas Cowboys shirt (not that I am particularly a fan of the Cowboys) to see just what he thinks about it. You see, Tank doesn’t intimidate me.
But it appears from Facebook posts that there are enough people who want to meet Tank, so I thought I would focus on more important things. Take careful note, Tank, of your reaction when you saw a double-amputee, and heard that he was a Marine. You waxed idiotic concerning a shirt he was wearing. You poked your belly out to defend a sports team that, frankly, doesn’t know you and doesn’t care anything about you.
Let’s be more specific. I cannot stand quarterback Cam Newton. I think that ridiculous head scarf he wears on the sidelines looks childish. It sets him apart rather than marks him as a leader. He will never be in the same class as say, Joe Montana, not if he lives 200 years. And his silly superman act in the endzone makes him out to be a superstar wannabe. I hate superstars, and I love team players. The Marines are team players. The Panthers are horrible in just about every other way, at least right now.
So, you spent your moral capital defending guys who do poorly at what they do, don’t know you, wouldn’t care anything about you if they did, and wouldn’t give you the time of day if they passed you on the street. Losers, you and the Panthers.
Contrast that with the fellow you verbally abused. He deployed to one of the worst places on earth to take down al Qaeda, al Qaeda sympathizers and their enablers. He trained in deadly conditions (e.g., squad rushes with live fire) in order to do this, and will forever live with the consequences of his sacrifice for you.
If I had met him, I would have asked him permission to discuss his experiences in warfare. You see, I owe him that respect, and some men don’t like to talk about it. If he agreed, I have a whole host of questions for him. What happened? How did it happen? When did it happen? Where were you – Now Zad, Garmsir, Sangin? What is your unit? What about IEDs and have dogs been beneficial to you? Are you set for at least a while, and is there anything I can do for you?
You see, Tank, some of us have respect for our warriors. We worry over things like Hezbollah crossing the Southern border, how quickly al Qaeda will re-group when we leave N2K, what the Pech River Valley and the Hindu Kush will look like with the ANA and ANP in charge, how quickly the Taliban will move from Helmand to Kandahar and then on to Kabul, why we didn’t send forces to repel the Islamist attack at Benghazi, Libya, and so on and so forth.
I understand that you apparently can’t handle that sort of stuff. So you just wear your shirt, cheer for your sports teams, and look stupid in those photographs. You laugh, and laugh, and bow your belly out as if you’re really something. But measure the cost. Somewhere there is a terrorist planning to take down our electrical grid. When that happens, your sports team will be the last thing on your mind, and you might just remember that Marine you abused.