Disabled Army veteran says he was denied service in a Virginia Beach restaurant because of his service dog

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The editorial comments in this are brought to you by a veteran and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA – Sadly, there is a mindset among some in our nation that disabled veterans with PTSD are ticking timebombs just waiting to explode.

As that flawed logic filters through, many take things to the next level and take the opportunity to discriminate. Is it out of apathy, a lack of education, or another reason?

We would like to introduce you to one such veteran, the events surrounding discriminatory actions aimed at him, and his thought process on what it all means.

Jeffrey Lamprecht is a 24-year Army veteran. He was a decorated Apache pilot who served 3 tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. He left the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3).

The retired Chief shared his DD214 with me. Not to brag, but to verify that he is who he claims to be.

I can tell you that when I use the word “decorated” to describe him and his service, I am not using that word lightly.

Mr. Lamprecht’s father and grandfather were combat aviators. He had a passion for being an Apache pilot. He loved what he did. He protected his fellow soldiers and saved lives.

Chief Lamprecht now suffers the scars, both visible and unseen, of his time in service. Airfields and burn pits were logistically placed adjacent to one another. The larger the airfield, the larger the pit.

According to Lamprecht, the ash from the burn pits was in the air they breathed. It was in the food they ate and the water they drank.

He has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, nerve damage associated with neuropathy, and even suffers from Parkinson-like tremors.

During our lengthy conversations, I asked him if he had it all to do over, knowing what he knows now…would he?

“Yes. Without the sacrifices we make as soldiers and sailors, America could not enjoy the freedom and prosperity she does. I loved serving my country…My broken body is just the cost of doing business.”

The Daily Press ran a story about him in 2013. In that piece, they provided an excerpt from his journal as he was coming to grips with the fact that his career was nearing an end because of the physical and mental scars he had been carrying.

“The simple fact of the matter is that I save lives. This is not to say I am a war lover, for that cannot be further from the truth…I am the penultimate sheepdog, hunting the horrible things that go bump in the night. But now, I am done.”

All of that was told to help you understand the man that Jeff Lamprecht was and, in so many ways, still is.

Now, let us tell you about Jeffrey Lamprecht today. There are some things that are vastly different.

On top of the other ailments, he was also diagnosed with PTSD. Like many combat veterans, he struggled mightily with assimilating back into societal norms as a civilian. That is a challenge that is hard to understand unless you have been through it.

One of the ways that he has tried to cope with his reintegration with society is with the assistance of his service dog, and Australian Shephard named Harley Baxter. Harley is the only dog from his litter that is not actively working on a sheep farm.

With his permission, I am able to tell you that Harley is trained very specifically to assist him with his anxiety, to prevent him from becoming violent, to wake him up from nightmares before Jeff is even aware he is having them, and to come to him when he is exhibiting signs of frustration.

Harley was trained by the working dog handlers assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Lamprecht is often approached and asked it Harley can be petted. He is asked if he is a service dog and how he helps him.

The Chief said that those levels of personal questions are devastating.

“We see people in a wheelchair, and we silently acknowledge the wheelchair, and we address the person. We don’t ask what happened to put them in a wheelchair. We don’t ask to go for a ride in it. We don’t ask what make or model the chair is. 

Why can we not do the same when we see a service dog?”

https://fundourpolice.com/

Lamprecht believes that veterans are already a broken and often ostracized section of society. And the stigma around PTSD does nothing to help that.

The questions that people throw his way are uncomfortable and cause him to feel disconnected. What makes it harder for Lamprecht, and likely many who are in the same boat as he, is that it is already difficult for him to be in public.

But Harley has been a huge blessing in that area.

So, what has happened, twice now, just this month came as a shock to Lamprecht and us.

The first occurrence happened on June 3.

The city of Virginia Beach was hosting an entire day honoring veterans along the beach and on the boardwalk, in conjunction with the USO. There were numerous organizations that were set up all along the boardwalk.

There was group that was parachuting veterans right onto the beach. The VAU Honor Wall was set up.

That wall is a tribute to the men and women who have lost their lives in the service to our nation as part of the Global War on Terror. Lamprecht provided sone photos of that monument.

Disabled Army veteran says he was denied service in a Virginia Beach restaurant because of his service dog
Photos courtesy of Jeffrey Lamprecht

Disabled Army veteran says he was denied service in a Virginia Beach restaurant because of his service dog

Disabled Army veteran says he was denied service in a Virginia Beach restaurant because of his service dog Disabled Army veteran says he was denied service in a Virginia Beach restaurant because of his service dog

Virginia Beach Police serviced the event to ensure the safety of all present. All in all, it was a great day.

Except for Jeff.

He had Harley with him all day and experienced no issues from anyone over the fact that he was entering establishments with a service dog. The only problem for most of that day was the sheer volume of people asking to pet Harley.

Until…

Jeff and some friends went on a boardwalk booze cruise.

Disabled Army veteran says he was denied service in a Virginia Beach restaurant because of his service dog
Facebook screenshot, courtesy of Jeffrey Lamprecht

“At a USO event for veterans, refused service for not presenting ‘proper papers’ for my PTSD service dog. Great place to not eat,” Lamprecht wrote on a Facebook post.

Lamprecht was quick to point out that the vagueness of his Facebook post could lead to some confusion.

The restaurant was not involved in the veteran’s event hosted by the USO. It was simply an establishment that he attempted to visit while in the area for the event.

When Jeffrey entered the facility, he was told that he could not enter with a dog.

He politely explained that Harley was a service dog.

This started a back and forth that eventually led to the restaurant staff telling Lamprecht that if he wanted to come in, he had to either leave Harley outside or produce the appropriate documentation to show that he was actually in need of a service dog and that Harley was indeed a trained service dog.

To make matters worse, as Jeffrey tried to explain calmly that their refusal to admit him with Harley, as well as their “requiring” documentation were in direct conflict with federal law, also known as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

After several minutes of the dialogue with staff, Lamprecht went outside. Not out of anger, or because he gave up, but because of the belittling feeling he was getting. This was just one more event that was occurring to one of America’s wounded warriors that led Lamprecht to believe that he and fellow veterans are ostracized and unwelcome, their sacrifices be damned.

I must pause here to say that at no point in my conversation with the retired warrant officer did I believe that he was looking for recognition or special treatment. He was not asking to be thanked, applauded or treated like a VIP.

He merely wanted to be a part of a group of friends having a good time on the Virginia Beach boardwalk.

But because of who he is, and the stigma he now carries with him, he was not allowed to do so. All because someone, whether out of apathy or completely out of ignorance to the law, chose to discriminate against a disabled American veteran and decorated combat pilot.

He chooses to believe that it was the latter, giving the offending party the benefit of the doubt.

Prior to walking out the door, the manager informed Lamprecht that he was calling the cops because he was getting aggressive and loud.

Think back to a previous statement in this story. Harley is trained to intervene if Jeffrey gets belligerent, violent or loud.

That was not happening.

What Lamprecht was displaying was heartbreak…not anger or aggression.

So, he decided to wait outside for the police.

While outside, one of his friends said that as they continued to speak to the manager and explain the reality of what was happening, the response that was given was “F— vets.” The restaurant denies that happening.

They issued a response on Facebook to a post from one of Lamprecht’s friends.

“We’re truly sorry for the incident that happened last night. We had a young hostess (who is a minor) who did not know the proper ADA protocols and asked an inappropriate question as we typically do not allow dogs in our indoor restaurant. However, service animals are the exception to this rule. 

A manager attempted to calm the guest, however, there was a communication breakdown. That being said, the words ‘F*** veterans’ was never uttered. The manager went out of his way to explain to explain his family’s military experience and even offered the guest another table.

We are sorry that a veteran felt he was not welcome in our establishment. We pride ourselves on being military friendly, and we even offer a discount for service members. We hope the customer can look past the initial interaction and come visit us again. Meal will be on us.”

I asked Lamprecht if he had plans to give the restaurant another chance, even though I felt I already knew the answer.

They made him feel small. They left him feeling as though he didn’t warrant a place in their establishment. They didn’t treat him like a customer. They treated him like a nuisance. They contributed to that feeling of being ostracized.

His two-word answer?

“Would you?”

No, Chief. No, I wouldn’t.

Author’s note: The apology from the restaurant was not much of an actual apology. They said they were sorry that Lamprecht felt the way he did. They didn’t apologize for their actions that led to those feelings. Instead, they justified them. The manager tried to share his family’s military story? 

But the reality is that this night and this interaction was not about his family. It was about retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeffrey Lamprecht and his military experience. It was about a man being discriminated against, in violation of a federal law. 

What it should have been about was a few friends having some drinks and closing out a day of celebration honoring area veterans.  

To make matters worse, Lamprecht said that he attempted to call the establishment numerous times. When he would ask to speak to the manager, he was left on hold for long periods of time only to tell him the manager was not there, or they would simply hang up.

Lamprecht believes that they either blocked his number or at the very least recognize it. The last few times he tried to call during business hours, it just rang.

He reached out to a local news crew, but they didn’t want the story. He has spoken with attorneys, but none want to take an ADA case.

So, we are telling his story.

And the thing that stands out about Lamprecht to this writer is this: he doesn’t want this story to be about him. He wants it to shed a light on the experiences that his fellow disabled veteran brothers and sisters inherit every day.

And many of us have dealt with this. Perhaps not to the same degree or for the same reasons, but we do. For some of us, it is even worse than what Lamprecht has dealt with.

Sadly, just when you think that you can put one experience behind you and move on to more positive ones…something new comes along.

Insert the second occurrence for Lamprecht.

Manchester, TN was the site of Bonnaroo 2022 (Creole for “good stuff”), held June 16-19. For our readers, Bonnaroo is a giant music festival. Four days. 10 stages. Close to 200 bands.

Lamprecht rolled his RV across Virginia to Tennessee to attend the festival. After a nearly 12-hour drive, he arrived at the location for the festival and sat in line awaiting to get into the RV camping section.

All vehicle that came into the event location were being searched. When it came his turn in line, he watched as officers with dogs searched the outside of his vehicle.

What happened next is mind boggling.

They told them that would need to bring the dogs onboard the RV. Lamprecht informed them that was going to happen. He explained that he had a service dog.

They looked him in the eye and told him that he would need to register his dog with the event staff.

Wait. What?

Perhaps he heard wrong.

They told him again.

Perhaps they had never heard of the ADA.

Nope. They were adamant. He was told to pull off to the side and wait for event staff to get him situated. After nearly an hour, a woman with Bonnaroo came to his RV to get Harley “registered.”

“Is he a service dog?”

Yes.

“What is he trained to do?”

Both are questions that are permitted under the ADA, if, and only if, it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal.

They are the only two questions that can be asked. You cannot ask to see tasks performed. You may not ask the nature of the disability.

Disabled Army veteran says he was denied service in a Virginia Beach restaurant because of his service dog
FAQ screenshot, courtesy ADA website

So, while the questions were invasive and Lamprecht was left feeling “uncomfortable and disconnected,” there was technically no violation of the ADA…yet.

But just like in the earlier incident with the Virginia Beach restaurant, there are things you cannot do or say.

In the conversation with Oceans 14, they violated the ADA when they asked to see documentation.

According to the ADA website, you may not require “registering” an animal.

The moment that the event organizers required Lamprecht to go through a registration process they violated his rights under the law.

Lamprecht says that he understands that there are individuals who abuse the service dog allowance. They may claim to have a service dog when they don’t or it may actually may only be an emotional support dog, which is totally different and is not afforded the same accommodations as service dogs.

He knows that people’s peace of mind must be provided, but where is the balance? Why does someone else’s peace of mind take precedence over his dignity.

The reality that Lamprecht, and millions of other vets, including myself, live with, is that there is a stigma surrounding PTSD.

“People look at vets with PTSD like we are the wolves that we fought in the dark,” Lamprecht said.

In other words, there are those that find out that a veteran has PTSD, and they automatically assume that they are about to go off the deep end. They are going to be the trigger man in the next mass shooting.

And the degrading looks and the snide comments we often receive take a toll.

It is totally ironic and simultaneously tragic that these events both happened in June. While they should have happened at all, the timing illustrates a point that needs to be discussed and brought into the light.

June is also PTSD Awareness month.

Depending on the year, over the past 15 years, somewhere between 17 and 33 veterans took their own life. Many of those numbers struggled and suffered from PTSD.

And that is one of the reasons that Lamprecht wants his story to be told. He lived in isolation for years after he left the Army. Going out in public was a legitimate struggle. But it his goal to eventually reach a day where he no longer needs a service dog. And it is a day-to-day process. But it is a walk worth taking.

If even one veteran reads this, and it helps them understand that they are not alone, and there are others that can relate and identify, and continues to hold onto hope that each day can lead to better things, then telling this story is worth it.

I have had the privilege of speaking with Chief Lamprecht several times, as well as via text.

I am inspired by his story. I am inspired by his insight. I am inspired by his outlook. I can truly say that I have found a friend in Jeffrey Lamprecht. We may never meet in person, but we have created a bond and I know that on those days where I feel there is no one else struggling like me, Chief will have my six. And he will defend me now with the same veracity that he would if he were still sitting in the cockpit of his Boeing AH-64 Apache.

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