About 200 veterans, their families attend dinner by Zalma studen - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

About 200 veterans, their families attend dinner by Zalma students

About 200 veterans and their families sat down to a meal by students in the Zalma FCCLA. About 200 veterans and their families sat down to a meal by students in the Zalma FCCLA.
This year marks the dinner's 25th year. This year marks the dinner's 25th year.
The dinner has gotten bigger each year. The dinner has gotten bigger each year.
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ZALMA, MO (KFVS) -

One small Heartland community is honoring area veterans in a big way.

"This being a rural community, I'm really surprised at the support," Navy veteran Tom Cockrell said.

"It's warming to the heart to see that many people go through the trouble to come out," Air Force veteran Bill Woodard said.

"It means everything to me, because I'm from the area. I just don't know how to explain it," Marine veteran Leo Goolsby said.

Goolsby, a Zalma native, isn't at a loss for words often, but how do you describe the feeling of being honored by dozens of Zalma students, teachers and parents?

"These kids and these people here at Zalma do a fantastic job," Goolsby said.

About 200 veterans and their families sat down to a meal by students in the Zalma FCCLA.

This marks the dinner's 25th year, and the same amount of time Regina Rainey has been organizing it.

"Some kids decided they wanted to do this thing for the veterans because there was nothing in Bollinger community for the veterans," Rainey said.

As much as the veterans and their families enjoy the meal, the students helping out enjoy giving back to their community.

"It means so much, my dad is also a veteran and it just makes them smile," Zalma FCCLA student officer Tove Evans said.

"They do so much for us to earn our freedom and it's just something little we do for them," Zalma FCCLA student president Wyatt Lemons said.

For many families, the dinner has become an annual tradition.

"When it started out it was in the cafeteria and was potluck and we've been coming every year," parent Judy Boland said.

And even our heroes are gone, there's always an extra place set.

"We used to come every year and two years ago this November, he passed away," Shirley Carlton said of her late husband Clinton Carlton.

Carlton served as a medic in the Army during WWII.

Shirley had a picture of her husband in his Class A uniform to place on the table beside her.

Because that's what this community is about: remembering and honoring.

"It's because of veterans. I've said that's my one passion in life is they're not confirmed near enough, and we need to thank them for what they do for us and have done for us," Rainey said.

As for the cost of the meal, students hold fundraisers throughout the year to be able to feed the veterans free of charge.

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