MEDINA--A veteran Marine and his wife are disappointed after they were asked to take their Toys for Tots campaign outside their local Walmart. But they aren't the only ones upset, a photo shared online has people outraged.
"The support from the community is unreal I can't believe it,” the veteran said.
"There was a woman who came up to me and said 'can I take your picture?' I said sure, so her husband took my picture and she went from there."
Thousands of people have shared the picture of John Harkness standing outside of the Medina Walmart on Pearl Rd. The picture was taken by a Medina resident on Saturday, when the weather was brutal, according to the couple.
Much of the feedback received is that it was disrespectful for the Marine to have to stand outside.
Lynn Harkness is the Toys for Tots Coordinator in Medina County. Standing in the toy warehouse Sunday, she explained that this incident was not only an issue of disrespect, but health is a factor for the volunteers.
"We have the Auxiliary and the Marines helping they are in their 60s most of them and on up. 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,” she said.
The Harknesses tell Fox 8 they have been allowed in the store for the last 15-16 years, but were surprised to have to stand outside this year. People online are blaming new management at the store.
Fox 8 News reached out to Walmart on Sunday, and the retailer responded regarding the situation and their policy:
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 andwomen 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.