Photo of Pennsylvania veteran sitting in 'pouring rain' outside Walmart goes viral, sparks outrage

For the past 20 years, veteran Manuel Griffin has sold memorial poppies outside a Walmart in Dickson City, Pa., during the month of May to raise money and awareness for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Rain or shine, Griffin's wife, Maryann, says he always shows up.

But this year, during inclement weather, Maryann says the store told the 69-year-old veteran he couldn't sell the "buddy poppies," created by disabled or needy vets in VA hospitals across the U.S., under the covered area.

Way to go Walmart ... commendable way to treat our veterans who fought for your freedom ... Disgrace."

- Maryann Griffin

"As it was pouring rain, he was told he couldn’t stay at the protected area and that he would have to go out in the rain and 15 feet away from the building as per the store manager," Maryann explained in a Facebook post on Friday.

She shared a photo of the vet, donning a military uniform, sitting outside in the rain with his hands folded. The picture was shared by more than 6,300 people as of Monday evening.

"Way to go WALMART....commendable way to treat our veterans who fought for your freedom.....Disgrace," Maryann continued in the now-unavailable post, adding that the photo was sent to her by a passerby who "obviously felt the same."

Hundreds of people commented on the photo — with dozens calling the move a "disgrace" and suggesting residents in the area should boycott the location.

"Regardless of what he was selling or for whom, they had regularly allowed him to do so. Basic human kindness should have stepped in here. Thanks for his service, both in the past and in the present!" one Facebook user wrote.

“He is going to do what he has to do for his VFW, and he wants to make sure he is representing them the same way we did when we wore the uniform."

- David Ragan

"All American stores and restaurants are getting ridiculous with their policies. People grow up these could be our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers or grandparents that fought in the wars. They could be related to anyone of us and we allow our fellow man to degrade them like this. I'm getting more ashamed of you all," another added.

"This is a kick in the face to someone whom puts their life on the line so Walmart can resort to disgraceful acts to our military! I encourage everyone to boycott Walmart," one man echoed.

Griffin declined to comment when asked by WNEP to address the situation. His friend, David Ragan, said that's just the type of guy he is — he wants the focus to remain on veterans, not himself.

“He is going to do what he has to do for his VFW, and he wants to make sure he is representing them the same way we did when we wore the uniform,” Ragan told WNEP.

The store manager told the news station he was just following a store policy that was implemented about two years ago. However, the manager did agree to provide canopies in the event of bad weather for veterans and others raising money for various causes in the future. He later brought out a cover for Griffin.

Maryann said her husband wasn't discouraged by a little rain. He was back at his post the following morning, ready for his four-hour shift. 

"Thank you for the overwhelming support to our veterans and the disrespect shown at a local Walmart," Maryann wrote on Saturday. "Thank you again for your wonderful response and support!"

The VFW explains on its website that the "Buddy Poppy program provides compensation to the veterans who assemble the poppies, provides financial assistance in maintaining state and national veterans' rehabilitation and service programs and partially supports the VFW National Home For Children."