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. markfromdover

    Some men talk the talk, others walk the walk..this sailor walked the walk.

    May 29, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  2. joe yarborough

    This American stands for everything the rest of U.S. could only hope to be! May Almighty God have mercy on U.S. all...

    May 29, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • pozin

      I am not religious but even I say AMEN.

      May 29, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • dalewalk

      What, some kind of hero just because he joins the service to fight an unjust war for our Defense Dept and all of the coproations who make huge profits from war? Once we stop celebrating all of these 'heroes', stop unfurling the flag everywhere for commercialism and demand an end to these horrific wars we won't have to bury so many of our children. I feel less and less pity for all of these soldiers who didn't have the sense to stay home.

      May 29, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. Charles Helfrick

    I would think Benigans could afford to continue donating the dollar past Memorial Day since they are being paid for the glass of beer each time a memorial picture is posted.

    May 29, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • MOCaseA

      While it is a publicity stunt it is still one that is worthwhile and directly supports the troops. I've used their services before, after a deployment when my wife was pregnant with twins, and their assistance is vital in supporting many of the returning troops. They provide assistance in non-military counseling, financial burdens, material assistance, and any number of other ways.

      So instead of griping about one business not providing "enough assistance" why don't you get off your computer and go help your local Operation Homefront. Because they need the help. Time, money, material goods, professional services are all needed and accepted.

      May 29, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Silver Back

      @ Charles H. What are you doing besides negative posting? Or better yet, what have you done to thank a past or present military solider?

      May 29, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Marion

      Figures some petty little j e r k would post this silly comment

      May 29, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Not a Scholar

      Wow. Totally not what I wanted to read after that heart touching article. You are really mad at the world. This was a personal gesture. Not a corporate action.

      May 29, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • ginalove40

      @ Charles Helfrick; Dude, seriously? It's the thought, not the monetary value, that count with the restaurant's gesture. Dang, just let everything else go.

      May 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MOCaseA

    Marvel ran a brief series of comics during world war to (and restarted it recently with the war on terrorism) that had a single quote that will stick with me forever:

    "True super-heroes don't have special powers. They don't wear an outfit, they wear a uniform. They don't wear capes. The only mask they wear is a gas mask. The soldier, those men and women who serve not just a country, but the idea that all people should be free of tyranny, are the true super-heroes. They give their time, their honor, and even their lives to uphold these basic human freedoms and give them to all peoples regardless of race, creed or country."

    May 29, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. Bob Campbell

    My heart goes out to this Hero's family and to all the other family's of fallen Hero's.

    GOD bless America!

    May 29, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      All military personnel are HEROES.

      May 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. fangflyer

    This type of hero is what America is about! He is the perfect example of the type of men and women we should be raising in our families.

    May 29, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Joe

    Great to see this. RIP Toner. Acta non verba – you really lived it, man.

    May 29, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. rufus

    Because of his death, we are safer and freer in the US. Don't you agree? Would hate to think that our troops' being sitting ducks halfway around the world was for nothing.

    May 29, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. demo Joseph

    Oh My!! Why do good people have to die for the fools who may war and never think of the issues that will hurting familes. I wish the president who created this war – read this sad, sad story. AND any president, senator, who harp and harp about going after muslins because they are bad. Look at the hurt, scars and pain this causing to our men and women who fight and their families who live with the lost and life long pain. STOP, STOP, STOP making war when it is NOT necessary. Talk people, grow up and make peace.

    May 29, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Silver Back

      @ Joseph, the hard truth is; So long as man exiests, so too does greed and with it all that incompasses it. So long as greed exsists, so too does tranny and those who are willing to fight to stop it. Therefore, wars must exsist and all that incompasses it.
      A vietnam vet.

      May 29, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  10. puck

    A silver star was the best that they could do? While this incident does not quite approach the requirements of being awarded The Medal, he should have at least gotten the next higher honor than the Silver Star.

    May 29, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • PR

      The next higher is the Medal of Honor. Silver Star is appropriate for his valor and sacrifice.

      May 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. magnus

    muslims are celebrating that he died. they are bummed that they were not able to decapitate him. but, at least he is dead and that brings joy to Islam.

    May 29, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      And only in the USA would you have the FREEDOM to celebrate anothers Death. And have Freedom of Speech. Why dont you remember that.

      May 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Gabby

    I had heard of this incident but not the bravery exhibited by this young officer. This is probably due to the overwhelming coverage given to celebrities that misbehave or commit suicide with recreational drugs.

    May 29, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  13. nlcatter

    the Generals who let unvetted afghans to have weapons should be executed

    May 29, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. Edward Sullivan

    God Bless LT j.g. Toner and all the brave men and women served this great nation.

    Ed Sullivan CW4 US Army, Ret.

    May 29, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  15. CEC Wife

    I couldn't believe this viral post was about a friend (and colleague) of my husband. LTjg Frank Toner exemplified all that is good about our nation. His sacrifice was felt throughout the CEC community, Navy, and military. We all mourned his passing while celebrating the life of a true American hero. Living in the hearts of his friends, this special man continues to touch the lives of Americans the same as he did before that fateful day.

    May 29, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      I am so sorry for your loss. I too am an officer's wife. My husband is a LT in the Navy reserves. He spent six years on active duty as an enlisted ET then when he was in reserves as an ET1, he applied for the EDO program and was commissioned in 2006. He has not served overseas yet but there is always a possibility that he could be called up at any time. I am always nervous for him but since I am a Navy retiree, I know that the point of having a reserve force is so there are readily available forces.

      May 29, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
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