NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It's been a very hard day for family and friends of Sonny Melton. The Big Sandy native was killed when a gunman opened fire at a country music festival in Las Vegas, and now his body has returned home to Tennessee.
Melton’s body arrived at Nashville International Airport on Saturday afternoon, nearly six days after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
When Melton and his wife, Heather, flew out to the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, no one could have foreseen how they would travel back.
On Saturday their plane arrived. Heather and family members were on the flight. Outside their plane, a hearse waited.
"I hurt for the family, I hurt for the community. I thought I'd handle this a lot better than what I did. I can't help it. I love the kid," Benton County Sheriff Kenny Christopher said. "I've known this young man since the day he was born. Went to school with his mother and dad."
On Saturday, Christopher was a part of the procession that escorted Sonny and his family home to Big Sandy.
Sonny was killed on Monday as he shielded his wife from the barrage of bullets that rang out when a gunman opened fire onto the crowd. Now his loss will be felt by many in his hometown.
"I don't think our community, as small as it is, has realized the loss that we're going to have from him. He was our future," said Christopher.
It's a future now marked by the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history.
The 29-year-old and his wife were attending the Route 91 Festival when the suspected gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, began firing from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel.
"I lost my true love and knight in shining armor," Heather wrote on Facebook Monday.
She described her husband as nurturing and caring, saying he would've saved others if he could.
As for the shooter, Heather doesn't want to know anything about him and doesn't want him to overshadow the victims.
Family members said Melton was a registered nurse whose only desire was to save lives.
Melton's visitation has been set for Monday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and again Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The funeral will follow at 1 p.m. on Tuesday. Both will be held in the gymnasium of Big Sandy High School.