CLINTON, Mo — The wound is wide open in the town of 9,000 residents, dragged down by grief but standing tall Monday to honor and say goodbye to a hero.
It is difficult for family, friends, and his brothers in blue, but also for those who never knew officer Ryan Morton. Many of them came to say thank you.
“He was a soldier too,” said Gary Willis, one of the bikers who rode in the procession. “I did 23 years in the Army, so there is that honor right there.”
It was a long, slow, sad ride from his funeral at the Benton Center in Clinton to Morton’s final resting place in Knob Noster.
“We have just been heartbroken over his loss but more than anything Ryan was a part of our every day life,” said Debbie Deke who was Morton’s youth leader.
She and Judith Guier said Morton was a fun-loving, friendly boy who went on mission trips to help others and grew up to be a dedicated public servant, eventually giving his life to protect others.
“He was full of life,” said Guier. “And I think that is the part that is the most difficult, is that when someone is so full of life and 30 years old, it is hard to imagine that you are at this point.”
The unimaginable has become a reality that no one wants to believe. The heartbreak over officer Morton’s death is shared by those who did not know him, holding signs, flags and salutes -- a physical expression of the two most powerful words on a day like this: thank you.
Chandler Hill and Jon Pottier came out to honor officer Morton and are a flag detail of two. They joined hundreds of others bonded by the grief of losing a hero they never knew, but will never forget.
“These officers help us and protect us,” said Pottier. “Keep them in our hearts and in our souls.”
There were law enforcement officers at the service from all over Missouri and Kansas as well as Ohio, Illinois, and Louisiana, the nation sharing in this small town’s grief.