APRIL 28, 2004
The southern Missouri town of Thayer is the perfect example of a small town. A population of around 2 thousand people, everyone seems to know everyone. That’s why it is so hard for townsfolk when they hear one of their own has died fighting for the country.
Specialist Kenneth Melton died when his company was attacked patrolling Iraq. His family shocked. But those shockwaves are no smaller for the rest of the town…many who knew “Kenny” or his folks.
It has been nearly four decades since a tragedy like this has struck the small mountainside community. Then in Vietnam they had one of their own die on the battlefield. Residents say while the time has passed away the hurt still is great.
Kennys former teacher Marge Shipp recalled how Kenny always knew what he wanted to do. Saying Kenny was always very patriotic and adventuresome. Something Kenny’s former barber remembered as well. “I never remember a bad word said about the kid,” J.W. Break said. “I still cut his fathers hair and he is really hurting.”
The city does plan on paying tribute to Melton and his family. Discussions are ongoing as to what the town and other local places will do. At the school, where Melton’s picture still hangs with the graduating class of 1992, things were solemn. Many of the students are to young to remember Melton but not the teachers. Shipp and others were visibly shaken by the news of Melton’s death.
While Melton left Thayer to live in Batesville, AR. Shipp and others say Melton never forgot where his home was. One of his last requests, which will be granted, is to be buried with his family at a local cemetery.