‘The biggest thing we do all year is our Veterans Day program’

Holly Pond Schools honor veterans

Holly Pond High School Key Club members serve breakfast to local veterans Friday morning. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

HOLLY POND, Ala. – Holly Pond’s elementary, middle and high schools came together Friday morning to honor more than 50 local veterans with their annual Veterans Day breakfast and program. According to Melba Palys, longtime advisor to the Key Club, which hosts the breakfast, the tradition has taken place at Holly Pond for almost 30 years.

Palys and her husband, the late Bob Palys, led the Key Club to start the breakfast, which treats veterans and their families to bacon and eggs, sausage, grits, biscuits and gravy prepared by club members.

She talked about how they started the event.

“My husband had a passion for the military,” she said. “When he became Key Club advisor here, that’s about the year that he started. Ms. (Jeanette) Heaton was our son Matt’s aide- he was in a wheelchair- and she had a passion, too, for the vets. So they started talking between them about getting a breakfast going, and it wasn’t long till Ms. Roberts got on the band wagon to do music and do the program that they do afterwards. 

“So they all got it together. The first year, I’m not even sure they had a program, but they have ever since. And so, we just got it started. It wasn’t very big the first year. We’ve learned, and it’s grown as people have learned about it. My husband- he died in 2017- but he would have been in the middle of it if he was here, I promise you!”

And how does it continue going strong?

Said Palys, “I get pleasure, of course, coming and seeing the veterans, and missing the ones that aren’t here this year–that’s always a touching thing. But we enjoy doing it.

“The Key Clubbers are awesome! We had about 20 of them come to my church last night at Welti, and we cooked the bacon then. They did nearly all the work; I just did the cleanup. We also scrambled the eggs to get them ready for this morning. So we do a little bit at a time. Several different people have different jobs to do: one of them’s supposed to make sure the biscuits got put in the oven and taken care of, and somebody else made the gravy, and we made grits this morning- my sister and I. We warmed the bacon and cooked the sausage. It runs like a well-oiled machine; after all these years we’ve got it down pat!”

Steve Miller, in his first year as principal, has served at Holly Pond High School for a number of years, and has seen the impact of the breakfast and program on both local veterans and his student body.

He told The Tribune, “On our part, understanding and making sure that our students understand the importance of what those ladies and gentlemen did and sacrificed for not only our freedom to come to school, but our freedom to do everything that we do, is of the utmost importance. 

“But the biggest thing, I think, is allowing our students and community to see that we still care for those guys. And, for me, it’s the biggest thing that we do. We graduate kids here and that’s important; we educate students here and that’s important, but for me, the biggest thing we do all year is our Veterans Day program.”

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W.C. Mann