Toast to fallen sailor goes viral
May 28th, 2012
11:08 PM ET

Toast to fallen sailor goes viral

A bar patron's toast to a fallen sailor has become a phenomenon on Facebook.

On March 28, Hannah Hobbs, a waitress at a Bennigan's restaurant near Borger in the Texas Panhandle, posted a photo of a glass of beer, with a handwritten note from the customer that read:

In memory of Lt. j.g. Francis Toner, USN.
Killed in action 27 March 2009,
Baikh Province, Afghanistan
"Non Sibi Sed Patriae"

In her photo caption Hobbs explained:

"This guy came in today and asked if it was ok if he left this on the bar.. I cried 😦 I left it there until like 1130 tonight.... I didn't want to pour it out but I had to. So I'm posting this pic so it can stay forever!! So can I get some likes people??"

Yes, yes she could get some likes. As of 10 p.m. ET Monday, Memorial Day, 1,239,045 people had clicked the "Like" button, and the numbers were continuing to skyrocket as the image was shared more than 117,000 times.

Toner, from Narragansett, Rhode Island, was one of two sailors killed when an Afghan National Army soldier opened fire on four officers who were jogging along the perimeter of Camp Shaheen in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, on March 27, 2009. After the shooting began, Toner, who was unarmed, verbally challenged the attacker and continued to advance until he was fatally wounded. His actions distracted the attacker from shooting other wounded officers and allowed another officer to seek help. For his actions, Toner was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest military decoration for valor. He was 26.

Lt. j.g. Francis Toner IV was awarded a posthumous Silver Star for his courage in Afghanistan.

Toner is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, whose website carries a news obituary written by Paul Davis of the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal. He was born in Panorama City, California, was an athlete and homecoming king at Westlake High School in suburban Los Angeles and trained at the Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island, New York, according to the article and Navy information on the website.

When he was killed, Toner was a week away from a leave of absence to visit his wife, Brooke, in Idaho, the article said. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, personally handed the Silver Star to Brooke Toner during a ceremony in September 2011.

"He was basically walking straight into the enemy's fire," Mullen said. "We shouldn't - and we won't - ever, ever forget that service, that sacrifice. Because that is what makes us strong, as a military and as a nation."

Toner faced death "tragically and heroically," Mullen said.

Hobbs, the Bennigan's waitress, said she has been surprised by the Facebook community's strong reaction.

"I never meant it to be more than a personal gesture," she said in a Bennigan's news release. "I felt taking a photo and sharing it on Facebook would keep the memorial alive. Several family and friends have served in the military, and I feel we don't do enough as a country to show our appreciation to those that put their lives on the line to keep us safe."

Taking a cue from Hobbs, the restaurant chain has created the "Bennigan's Wall of Heroes." Patrons may purchase a beer and leave a note for any member in the U.S. military, past or present.

Pictures of the beer and note should be posted on the company's Facebook timeline. Bennigan's has pledged to donate $1 for every photo, through Memorial Day, to Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Facebook • Military • U.S. Navy • War
soundoff (187 Responses)
  1. ron VS

    Words fail me, but the tears do not.

    May 28, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony


      May 28, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Random

      Why was he unarmed in a war zone? Who said this was OK? He should not have had to die unarmed! My condolences to the family.

      May 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mohini Than Maung

    I Salute Thee.

    May 28, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. raven

    I was also moved to tears. I wish I could give the man that left the beer a hug. And a beer.

    May 28, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Brett Menzie

    I knew Frankie. He and I played high school football together, though my little brother knew him better. From all accounts he was a clean, outstanding human being. I know that many miss him. He was the type of person I wish I could be. RIP Frankie!

    May 28, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. gbux333

    Animals learned to live with us but we never learned to live with each other! War so sad,I Love and pray for all our troops! GOD BLESS AMERICA! It needs his help.

    May 28, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Editor wannabe

    Just wanted to let you know the link to their FB page is broken.

    May 28, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • jkavcnn

      Thank you for pointing that out. The link has been fixed.

      May 29, 2012 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. Navy Chief

    There is a camp in Khowst Province, Afghanistan on FOB Salerno named after him, we he helped build it and we honor him at the flag pole, after every team turns over.

    May 29, 2012 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Brett Menzie

      That is awesome! Thank you for your service!

      May 29, 2012 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  8. MidWestern Boy

    The best of the best.

    May 29, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  9. Army Wife


    May 29, 2012 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
  10. Three Dog Mama

    Thank you Sir for your service.

    May 29, 2012 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  11. Brett Menzie

    Thank you for that video Dustin!

    May 29, 2012 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jason Robert

    Very Sad. We send these kids to die in these wars for what?!?!? Humans spend more money and energy to create ways to kill each other than help each other.

    May 29, 2012 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • An American 'only'

      1st these are not 'kids' they are men in war. 2nd All that you have in this great country today came by war, much good comes from war those that 'do it' just understand the cost more than others.

      Humans create more ways to 'help others' not hurt others, today we have +1100 military bases around the world, an armed force that controls to a great number 7 billion persons. And, to fact that in each conflict that Americans choose's to give help to others are killed less and less each time.

      In WW2 there were 452,000 MIA's.

      War is a nasty process, because those that cannot see as we do, are quite an odd lot to change, but change to them does take place and it is and has always been for the better. It is for the betterment of humankind that wars create change when nothing else will.

      It is for the betterment of all the world, that America guides...all others.

      May 29, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. Not Enough

    Silver Star isn't enough. The Medal of Honor seems more fitting. Can I get an Amen? Knowingly making oneself a target to save others is a textbook example of valor.

    May 29, 2012 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
    • anchorite

      Those stories are always fake. Some guy will be mortared in his barracks and they'll say he charged the enemy to make it look like he was brave.

      May 29, 2012 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
    • peridot2


      May 29, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. anchorite

    Well this changes things. I thought he was killed in the line of duty, and I "Liked" it on FB. Instead, he was killed by friendly fire. That's hardly the line of duty. The Afghans wouldn't be shooting their own if their own weren't slaughtering their women and children by the tens of thousands. Where's the beer for them?

    May 29, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      You really need to update your personal definition of friendly fire...and get a grip on reality.

      May 29, 2012 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
    • getaclue

      They're muslim, they don't drink alcohol, they just slaughter their own people.

      May 29, 2012 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      When have you ever been under any type of fire in a combat zone? My guess is never. No matter what there always seems to be a guy like you anchorite that crawls out from under his rock, a selfish nobody to make a stupid comment. Sure enough termite here you are. This guy lost his life in the service of his country so shut up.

      May 29, 2012 at 6:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. Judith McQueen

    I wanted to put my arms around this brave man and can only cry instead. Please, please lets stop this madness. Our county can not abide any more. Please bring our young men and women home to their wives and children. They deserve our respect and support. Can somebody figure out how to do that? Its enough. NOW!!!!!

    May 29, 2012 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
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