THAYER/MAMMOTH SPRING -- In the paragraph that followed Kenny Melton's graduation photo from Thayer High School in 1992 it read: "Kenny Melton is the son of David and Addie Melton. He was born Nov. 24, 1974, in West Plains, Mo. Activities included SADD, TSA, speech. Plans after graduation are to enter the military."
The communities of Mammoth Spring and Thayer were brought together again last week when one of their own was laid to rest in Jeff Cemetery.
Spc. Kenneth A. Melton was killed April 15 in Iraq while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Melton, 29, died when his military vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device and small arms fire. He was traveling in a convoy from Baghdad.
Melton was assigned to the Arkansas Army National Guard's Detachment 1, Company B, 3rd Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, 39th Brigade Combat Team.
Melton did not immediately join the military after graduating from high school as it said in the 1992 graduation issue. He worked at numerous jobs around the Thayer/Mammoth Spring area including a couple of years at his parents' service station on Highway 63 near the former Krispy Cone.
While a youngster, Melton enjoyed the things most boys like, including knives, playing pool, baseball, electronics and fishing. He mowed yards and seemed to have a special connection with the elderly.
A special friend of the soldier was long-time Thayer resident Edo Howard. Melton mowed her yard in the summer. "He was my friend; he was a good boy. He even came to see me after he was in the service," Howard said.
Howard said it hit her hard when she heard the news about Melton. "It hit me like a ton of bricks when Bill Thompson (Melton's uncle) came and told me Kenny had been killed. I ain't got over it yet," Howard said.
When asked what Kenny excelled in during his high school years, Addie Melton had the perfect mother's answer, "girls." And she and David agreed the young man possibly majored in "proms."
Melton spent his entire public education in the Thayer School system beginning with kindergarten.
About 10 years ago he met and married the love of his life, Carol Ann Miele at Thayer. David and Addie said she was originally from New York. With Carol, into the family came three children - Vincent (Vinnie), Marie and Theresa Miele.
Soon after marrying, the family moved to Batesville where Melton worked in town as a truck driver and later as a cross country truck driver.
Melton's father said he joined the Arkansas Army National Guard five years ago in Batesville. He served one weekend a month at Batesville and two weeks a year somewhere else in the United States although he was deployed to Egypt for nine months after the 9-11 attacks.
David and Addie married when Kenny was 3 years old. His mother, Kathy Crawford, lives in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Texas area. He has two brothers, Mike Mabes of Clarksville, Tenn., and Keith Crawford of Ft. Worth, and two sisters, La Theresa Crawford of Arizona and Krystal Crawford of Ft. Worth. His maternal grandparents are Lee and Irene White of Wirth.
"We have had such tremendous support from our communities. Everyone has been so wonderful. We have heard from people we haven't heard from in years," Addie Melton said.
The Meltons said they appreciated the treatment and support they received from the National Guard, especially a Sgt. Brown. "This is one great guy. He did everything in his power to do what we wanted. We couldn't have asked for a better representative from the National Guard," said David Melton.
"Specialist Melton gave his life defending the nation and serving our country in support of the global war on terrorism," said Maj. Gen. Don C. Morrow, adjutant general of Arkansas. "He typified the American spirit and will be remembered as a true hero. We are extremely saddened at his loss. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his family."It is clear the Meltons are proud of their son and his accomplishments as a soldier. "He felt strongly about our government and our country. The proudest thing Kenny ever did was being a soldier. He was proud to be a soldier," his dad said.
The funeral was May 2 at p.m. at Clary Funeral with pastor Bob Dustman officiating. Burial with full military honors followed at the Jeff Cemetery.