JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A local Army veteran's story that he was kicked out of an Old Navy store has gone viral on Facebook and across the Internet. The retail chain says he was never asked to leave the store.
Aaron Bennett says he was at the Old Navy location in Orange Park when he saw an employee wearing a dark green Marine Corps dress jacket.
Old Navy told Channel 4 that the employee said the jacket with decorations on it came from a military surplus store.
"Had rank on the side, couple rows or ribbons and a weapons badge," Bennett said.
In addition to being a veteran, Bennett comes from a military family and knows that the United States Code makes it illegal "to falsely represent oneself as having received any U.S. military decoration or medal."
Bennett said he told the store manager and was then approached by a deputy and mall security, who told him he was banned from the store.
Old Navy told Channel 4 that Bennett was not banned from the store and mall management said he was not banned from the mall.
"We can confirm that mall security and the sheriff's officer on duty did not ban anyone from the mall," said Helen Ciesla, manager of Orange Park Mall.
The story of Bennett's incident was posted on the Stolen Valor website, a site dedicated to making sure the American military uniform is honored. Bennett said he was trying to do just that when he got kicked out.
Old Navy's corporate parent, Gap, Inc., released this statement:
"Old Navy has the utmost respect for the military and we're proud of our longstanding tradition of supporting American troops, including our own employees and their family members who serve. We spoke to Mr. Bennett and apologized for any miscommunication that may have occurred while he was shopping at our store. We also reiterated that he and his family are welcome, as always, to shop at any of our stores. We're truly sorry for any misunderstanding or offense caused by this incident."
While Bennett told Channel 4's Emily Turner on Wednesday he would not accept the store's apology, Old Navy said Friday that he has accepted their apology.
"It wasn't about the jacket. I was willing to let it go. I was done with it," Bennett said. "The fact that they wanted to ban me from the store because I pointed out a total discrepancy, this being a Navy town, it dishonors a lot of people."
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