ROLLA, Mo.-- The community of Rolla paid tribute today to a soldier killed in Afghanistan. 29 year old Army Specialist Bradley Melton was killed by an improvised explosive device on May 16th.
Specialist Bradley Melton's body landed at the Rolla National Airport and was escorted into town Friday afternoon, and it looked as if the whole town came out to show their support.
Army Specialist Bradley Melton's family got the grim news more than ten days ago. It was his third tour in Afghanistan.
"You don't want to think it's going to be your own. Unfortunately when it happens, reality hits you," says Steve Beem, Melton's father. The reality of Bradley Melton's sacrifice hit hard in Rolla Friday afternoon, as his body arrived in his home town.
"On a bad day he'd make you smile. On a happy day, he'd make you even happier," Beem says.
It may not bring smiles, but young and old lined the streets, showing their support for Specialist Melton and his heartbroken family.
"He was a very charismatic, nice, just a country boy, the kind of kid that every mother wants," says Paula Randolph, a friend of Melton.
Boyscouts, veterans, and firefighters stood along the curbs. Firefighters spanned a 35 foot long American flag across State Route 63 on their truck's ladders. "It shows the town's got a lot of support for the people that are over there protecting this community," says Rolla Rural Fire Chief Bruce Southard.
Families with children, and people taking time away from work all stopped to look on and wave the red, white and blue. "They're showing their support for what Specialist Melton did, showing the family that they appreciate the sacrifice that they made for our freedom," says Rolla resident and retired soldier Russell Gehrlein.
Specialist Bradley Melton is not only hero in the eyes of his two young sons, but to his entire community, and nation.