Military vets treated to annual Sikh feast

Fortunate are the military veterans who heard of Tuesday's Sikh feast in Santa Rosa and got themselves into the buffet line.

Members of the local Sikh temple treated vets to all they cared to eat of fresh naan bread, rice, yogurt and vegetarian dishes of chickpeas and cauliflower.

About 100 guests, most of them veterans and some of them homeless or struggling, took part in the annual repast at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building. A jazz band played on the stage and volunteers with Sonoma County Vet Connect invited veterans in need to help themselves also to cold-weather clothing, toiletries and such.

The event's prime instigator is Dr. Mandeep Nagra, a member of the Sikh temple off Todd Road, Gurdwara Sahib, and a physician at the Veterans Administration outpatient clinic north of Santa Rosa.

Nagra said it's a longstanding tradition for Sikhs to cook for themselves and their fellow temple members. When he proposed several years ago that local Sikhs also host a community meal, temple members heartily embraced the idea.

Nagra said it was natural to invite military vets as honored guests because of his contacts through the VA clinic, and because Sikhs have long taken up arms in defense of freedom and they appreciate others who've done the same.

Some of the vets who accepted the Sikhs' gratitude and hospitality Tuesday said the Indian food is a rare treat and the event is something they look forward to each December.

One former soldier said the fare was a bit on the spicy side for him, but he sure appreciated the kindness.

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