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. Steve

    This is a great money maker for Bennigans! Capitalism . . . as long as the soldiers keep dying someone canl keep making money.

    May 30, 2012 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. William

    While I applaud the sentiment and I was in Kabul when this happened, I would think that if we'd like to honor our comrades in arms, we might pay attention to a small but important note to most who have served. This was not a toast to a fallen Soldier but in fact a toast to a fallen Sailor. I would hope that CNN would make that correction. Words mean something and a soldier is a member of the US Army. I would never denegrate what this brave soul did in protecting others in a very selfless and couragous manner. But, lets give his choice of service a little respect and call him what I am sure he was very proud to be, a Sailor in the United States Navy.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  3. Toots

    Big ups to the individual who thought to leave the beer on the counter as a way of representing and big-ups to the bartender who's keeping it going thru a blog after regrettably throwing it way. Gotta love ppl with BIG hearts.

    May 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mike Hanner

    I served in the Army National Guard in Borger in 1970. What a great tribute to a great soldier. May God bless him and comfort the lives of those who knew him.

    May 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Keisha

    I know I am a little late Hanna but look at what your wonderful gesture has done! You are amazing friend! We need to have more businesses acknowledge our heroes.

    May 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. El

    I knew LT.JG Toner, he was a very caring and helpful, person,he would listen to any suggestion you had. We worked out of Pearl Harbor. I will never forget him. He were an inspiration for many and we all was blessed just to know him.

    June 27, 2012 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. Brandon

    I knew him, though briefly. I was passing through Camp Mike Spann in Afghanistan and met L.T. jg Toner a couple of weeks before this happened. Afterwards we made a 6 hour convoy back for the memorial service. Though I did not know him or the other person killed very well it was hard, especially having only been in country for a few weeks.

    October 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. caitlyn rodgers

    this is an amazing story

    November 9, 2012 at 5:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. jamessandberg1

    what a touching story. I think it's these gracious acts of humanity that will always resonate with many people.

    February 24, 2013 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
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