New Yorker Terrence Dingle took the long way to the Golden Isles, going first to Afghanistan.

The Army veteran did a tour of duty in that war-torn country in 2009-10. A recent graduate of College of Coastal Georgia, Dingle has found the region’s reputation for friendliness to be well deserved. A prime example was the free plate of Southern Soul barbecue he savored Saturday at a table in the parking lot at 520 Ocean Blvd., the offices of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services.

Dingle was among numerous military veterans who filled the tables in the parking lot at for a free lunch on Veterans Day served by Hospice of the Golden Isles. The informal luncheon followed the Veterans Council of the Golden Isles’ Veterans Day parade and ceremony nearby in the Pier Village.

In previous years, Hospice hosted a Veterans Day luncheon for veterans at its headquarters on Glynco Parkway. But organizers decided last year to move it to the Pier Village area to coincide with the Veterans Day events.

“We’re doing this as way of honoring the veterans,” said Amy Broderick, spokeswoman for Hospice of the Golden Isles. “It’s our way of saying, ‘Thank you.’ And we thought, why not just serve all the veterans where they are already gathered.”

Joining Dingle at the luncheon were several dozen veterans, representing all branches of the military, with some going back to service in World War II. Southern Soul’s generous participation and a $5-a-plate ticket for non-veterans helped offset the cost of hosting the veterans, Broderick said.

Dingle had marched in the parade earlier with GCCA’s Valor, a campus organization that helps veterans with the transition of entering college. He was joined at his table by several Valor members, including Dwayne Carson, an Air Force veteran and president of the club.

“This is great,” said Dingle, who has settled in Brunswick. “The funny thing, you always hear about Southern Hospitality. Well, it’s real here. This is just wonderful.”

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