Memorial service for Melton reveals the man behind the badge

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- It was a touching memorial service on Saturday for Capt. Dave Melton as family and friends, legions of police, and members of the public filed into Children's Mercy Park to pay their last respects to the officer who was shot and killed on July 19 responding to a report of a drive-by shooting.

The service was heartfelt and gave praise to Melton and his lifetime of service to his community and the nation, but the scene was tragically reminiscent of the May 14 funeral for KCK Detective Brad Lancaster, also held at Children's Mercy Park.

While the parallels in honoring yet another fallen officer were certainly not lost on Police Chief Terry Zeigler and Fraternal Order of Police President Scott Kirkpatrick, both of whom spoke at length at Lancaster's funeral, it was their words that made the memorial service truly unique as they painted a picture of the man that Dave Melton was.

Kirkpatrick said of Melton, "He had a heart the size of this stadium."

Zeigler recalled Melton's ceaseless drive to serve, his discipline and work ethic, and his outstanding leadership skills. He described Melton's military service in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as his life as a KCK police officer.

"Throughout Captain Melton's law enforcement career, he exemplified our values of service, honor, integrity, and professionalism. His uniform was always crisp, brass always shiny, boots always polished," Zeigler said.

Zeigler had to stop and take a few deep breaths as he fought through emotion in recalling how it was Melton who drafted the department's manual on organizing a memorial service for a fallen officer after Lancaster's death.

"Just prior to Brad's funeral, I asked Capt. Melton to create a how-to manual for a fallen officer's funeral so we would have a playbook for future leaders in our department to follow in the event there was another tragic loss of an officer after we were all retired," Zeigler recalled. "When he delivered the manual to the chief's office, he said, 'It's all done. Put it on the shelf and hopefully we'll never have to use it again.'"

Fellow officers came over to comfort him as Zeigler nearly broke down remembering the moment of opening Melton's manual to plan for Saturday's service. Even in death, Melton continued to serve the police department.

"It was with a heavy heart that we pulled the manual off the shelf to guide us through the process of honoring its author, Captain Dave Melton. And Dave, I hope we made you proud. We're very proud of you. Rest now, brother. We'll take it from here."

Then, Det. Danon Vaughn sang a rendition of "Amazing Grace," just as he had done at Lancaster's funeral.

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Melton's brothers, Larry and John, spoke after Zeigler. Larry appropriately drew on the past when memorializing a man so dedicated to honor and tradition.

He quoted words from the eulogy of Bobby Kennedy, who had held the title of Attorney General, our nation's top law enforcement officer.

"My brother need not be idolized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life. Be he remembered as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and he tried to right it; who saw suffering and tried to heal it; who saw war and tried to stop it," Larry said. He saw the parallels in Dave, who was also so driven to serve others.

John gave a glimpse of another side to the officer; a more personal side of a man who loved his family and passed down his values of honor and service to his kids. He revealed a man who cracked jokes and could seemingly repair anything with duct tape and radiator hose clamps.

"I wish I could find the duct tape and the radiator hose clamp to fix this tragedy," John said.

The service at Children's Mercy Park was filled with prayer and praise for the man who gave all in service. The funeral concluded with a display of fireworks and shots from a military artillery cannon.

Melton was interred at Leavenworth National Cemetery.

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