Sonny Melton was registered nurse 212019.
That’s how he was identified in the emotional nurse’s final call during his funeral service at Big Sandy High School on Tuesday, nine days after he was killed in the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1.
Tears fell in the moments after, when Melton didn’t report for duty.
His wife, Heather, spoke briefly in the service to introduce a special performer.
“This guest that I’m about to introduce is one that’s worth me using my last ounce of strength for,” Heather Melton said.
She told of how Daniel Bonte was the one who helped her at the time she needed help the most — after Sonny had been fatally wounded while they were searching for cover.
He was hit a few yards short of safety. Heather stopped and tried to help him, administering CPR. She said she cried for help during the chaos.
Bonte was the one who answered the call.
“He was an angel that night, who put Sonny on his shoulder and tried to get him to help,” Heather said. “And after we’d found out Sonny was gone, he stayed there with me and wouldn’t let me be alone until family got there that morning.”
Bonte said in a post on his Facebook page that Sonny died in his arms.
Bonte is a musical artist based in California. He flew to Tennessee to be part of the service, along with his brother, Jeff Carbone, accompanying him on guitar.
Greg Brewer, a local pastor and Sonny’s third cousin, delivered the message for the service. He told of how Sonny accepted Jesus as a child one night in bed — and he helped his family try to prepare for life without him.
“Because he was a Christian, Heaven became his new reality when he left this world that night,” Brewer said. “And now we begin our new reality here without him, knowing we can see him again one day, if we’re Christians, too.”
Different aspects of Sonny’s life were well represented throughout Big Sandy’s gym. His family was on the right side, and his nursing teammates from Henry County Medical Center were on the left.
Teachers and faculty were on the right, and the Big Sandy Class of 2006, Sonny's, had their own section in the bleachers next to the nurses.
“We can see how much Sonny was loved by all the love, compassion and care that have been sent to the family on his behalf,” Brewer said as he looked over the crowd of hundreds in the gym.
The service ended with the final nurse’s call, and a flag of appreciation — a fairly new tradition the Red Cross started a few years ago — was presented to Heather. A recording of “Why Not Me” played over the sound system, the song Eric Church wrote in Sonny’s honor as Church was his favorite artist. Sonny planned to watch him perform at the Grand Ole Opry last week.
Reach Brandon Shields at email@example.com or at 731-425-9751. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or on Instagram at editorbrandon.