NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Sonny Melton, of Paris, Tennessee, was among the 59 people murdered in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire on thousands of concert goers late Sunday night.
Melton was enjoying the Jason Aldean concert with his wife, Heather, and reportedly died shielding her from the gunfire. She was never physically injured.
In the wake of his passing, the 29-year-old’s father took to Facebook, penning an emotional open letter about his son’s life and death, and his family’s struggle with their new reality after the nation’s deadliest mass shooting to date.
Below are the unedited words of James Warren Melton, used with his permission:
My Thoughts about Sonny and heroes.
If my calculations are correct, In my 62 years, I have seen about 22,623 sunrises in my life. As of this past Sunday morning, I had never really experienced one that I couldn’t find at least some good in and I had never, ever hated anyone. And I mean that, not anyone. Well, as of 12:57 am Monday morning Oct. 1, 2017 I am now well acquainted with both horrible things, a hated day and a hated person.
That’s the moment I received the telephone call that everyone, especially a parent fears.
The words came fast from the phone’s speaker, too fast as I tried to wake up and shake the sleep stupid feeling off. 30 seconds later, I prayed to be sleep stupid, drunk, having a nightmare or crazy. But, as they say, it is what it is. James Sonny, my youngest son at 29 years of age, was dead. Bullets in his back as he lay over his wife, protecting her as best he could with all he had available, his body. Shot by some sick bastard too cowardly to even look him in his eyes as he snuffed the life out my child. Oh No, this guy did it from 32 floors up and 300 yards away.
As I understand it now, it was just bullets fired wildly into a crowd of about 20,000 country music fans. A crowd where Sonny just happened to be with his wife, listening to music. However, this crowd turned out to be a target of several acres in size with a 99% chance to make a hit on a human body with most every single shot fired into it. And in this sea of carnage, Sonny was a hero right up until the bullets pierced his back and lungs and he couldn’t go on.
But my tale of heroes doesn’t end there folks, not at all. As Sonny and Heather ran away from the sniper, he always kept his own body between the danger and his wife. A running human shield. Heather says he had his hands on her shoulders and she felt him get hit and start to fall. And even though she was only a few yards from the safety of a concrete retaining wall, she stopped and turned around to kneel by his side. She made a quick exam and yelled for help as dozens of others fell around them. Bullets hitting the concrete so near that the resulting dust irritated her eyes. But she stayed right there and started CPR there out in the open on the cold ground in a last ditch chance to save her husband. Don’t you see, Heather is a hero also. Protected by nothing more than the grace of God’s invisible hands, she stayed with him and I’m comforted now knowing my son didn’t have to die alone.
And that’s not all! Suddenly out of the blue came two more angels. These angels were in the form of two young concert goers who chose not to hide or run away. These two guys braved the hell of that killing field that must have resembled the Marines landing on Omaha Beach. They ran to Sonny and Heather, picked him up and carried him all the way to their pickup truck. There, they loaded Sonny and two other victims into the bed of the truck and raced to the closest hospital. One guy driving, the other helping Heather give CPR to Sonny. We don’t even know these guys names, they asked for no praise or reward. They just said they were sorry they couldn’t have gotten to Sonny quicker. They are heroes!
But, it just wasn’t enough. Heather cried as hope slipped away and the doctors in the ER pronounced him dead. Sonny was an ER Nurse himself. Once when I asked him why, he just smiled and in a matter of fact way said “I want to help save people’s lives”. Well, he lived up to that high standard until the very bitter end.
I know I’m not the first to feel these horrible things, like grief and loss and I’ll certainly not be the last, but I sure wish I could be. Because it hurts, man I mean it really hurts.
A few years ago, I had a really good friend who was an American Indian. (Now dead from the cancer that robbed him of life in the end) His people have a prayer that he often recited that always touched my heart. I can’t remember it word for word, but I have repeated it often in my own words. “Please God, let me live honorably and when I take my last breath, let me die standing tall protecting my family”. I haven’t had the opportunity to finalized those words yet for me, and it may not even be in my future. But Sonny did. He stood the final test. He was Just a good guy, doing what good guys do. He was a hero.
I truly thank our Lord that we had Sonny for these past 29 years and I like to believe I even helped him a little grow into the great young man he was.
Susan, Janie and I made the 5 hour flight to Los Vegas without a total breakdown only because of the employees of Southwest Airlines who went above and beyond to help, one flight attendant even took us by the hand to his personal car and drove us to find Heather in this strange city. I say this so that I don’t loose sight of the fact that there also good people everywhere.
My hatred of the shooter may diminish given enough time, again I’m not the first to bare this burden. But right now, that’s not an option. As an ex cop, I share the frustration of the SWAT officer we heard about who was crying because the shooter killed himself before the cops could breach the door and take care of that ugly business themselves. Like I said, a coward.
To all the folks who have tried to call or text me or Janie or Susan, please don’t be mad if we didn’t answer. Or If I’ve misspelled words in this letter, it’s difficult to see clearly through tear filled eyes. We are all just overwhelmed right now. Prayers for Sonny, Heather, Susan and Janie and I are appreciated beyond belief. The grief has us now firmly in its relentless grip and this evil day has lasted way too long. Once again my prayer is to just be sleep stupid and have this sadness go away, even for just a few hours till I wake to my new, changed and darker world.
Sonny was a hero.
And on Wednesday, Sonny’s wife Heather wrote on Facebook a scholarship fund was established in Sonny’s honor.
She wrote, in full, “The Sonny Melton Scholarship Fund to honor the life and legacy of Sonny Melton, a Big Sandy native who was the first identified victim of the Las Vegas tragedy, has been established at Apex Bank. Sonny’s mother has been a member of the Apex Bank family for over forty years. The Sonny Melton Scholarship Fund was created to celebrate Sonny’s life by assisting graduating Big Sandy High School Seniors who desire to pursue a career in nursing. To assist in endowing the fund, Apex Bank has committed to match the first $50,000 in private contributions to the fund.”