Remembering Sonny: Heather Melton Will Serve as 12th Titan

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Heather Melton has countless great memories of her late husband, and one horrific one.

On Sunday, when she returns to Nissan Stadium as the Honorary 12th Titan, Heather Melton will reminisce about the "perfect day" she had at the Titans-Packers game last year, alongside Sonny, her best friend, and hero.

Sonny Melton, 29, was one of the 58 people killed during a shooting at a Las Vegas concert on October 1. He was shot in the back while shielding Heather from the bullets.

"I literally think about him from the minute I open my eyes, until I go to bed at night," Heather Melton said in an interview with Titans Online. "He is everywhere I turn. Everywhere I go, I see him. But there are special memories from places we went, and any time you go back, you remember that. And that Titans game with him last year, it was a great memory we had together. I'll never forget it."

Heather Melton, an orthopedic surgeon at Henry County Medical Center in Paris, Tennessee, attended the Titans-Packers last November with Sonny. They sat behind the Titans bench, Sonny decked out in a Steve McNair jersey, and a Titans hat. He was a big fan, having secured a McNair autograph as a young boy when the quarterback visited northwest Tennessee on a caravan stop during his playing days.

On that Sunday, they watched the Titans beat the Packers, 47-25, and they had a blast.

"It was a perfect day," Melton said. "The weather was great. The Titans won the game, and we were giving it to the Packers fans around us. Sonny's always been a big fan. Sonny just loved to have a great time, and we always had a great time together. He was a fan of Marcus Mariota. He was a fan of Tennessee -- the Titans, the Vols, and the Predators. He was all about Tennessee. And we did so much together.

"We were only together for five years, but we went pretty hard in those five years. We didn't let any grass grow under our feet. We were moving, and we were always planning the next thing we were going to do."

Heather Melton said she's still coping with the death of her husband. Just this week the FBI dropped by his death certificate, yet another painful reminder of her loss. The couple lived together in Big Sandy, located roughly two hours from Nashville.

Heather and Sonny Melton were celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary at the music festival when the Las Vegas shooter opened fire from a nearby hotel. Heather said her husband grabbed her and started running when she felt him get shot in the back. Due to Sonny's heroic actions, Heather survived the shooting without any injuries. But Sonny died from the gunshot wounds. Heather, who performed CPR on her husband before he was rushed to the hospital, said he saved her life.

When the Titans asked her to be the 12th Titan for Sunday's game, she said she was honored. When she was asked for an interview by Titans Online, she agreed, because she said she wanted to shed a positive light on her husband for the world to see.

"I am immensely proud of the person my husband was before this happened, I can't put it into words," she said. "He was an amazing human being, even to his last breath. He saved my life, and I am so proud of him. He would hate all the recognition, because he was a pretty humble guy and he doesn't like a lot of attention.

"But I am so proud of him, and that's what keeps me doing all these things. I know how awesome he was, and the people that knew him did, too. But I'm OK with other people knowing it. I want as many people to know what an amazing person he was. My whole thing this whole time has been to focus on the victims and what kind of people they were, and not the shooter. And the more light we shine on Sonny and the victims, the more (the shooter) fades into the background."

At Sunday's game, Heather will be joined by her eight-year-old daughter, and her two teen-aged children. Sonny's mom will also make the trip.

Heather Melton said the support she's received has been amazing as she's dealt with the loss of her husband.

"The outpouring from people, not just in the state of Tennessee, but across the country and across the world, it has been amazing," Melton said. "I have received letters from Sweden and Poland and Turkey, from Israel and all over the world. It has been amazing and the thing all of them say is they can see from our pictures and from hearing our story that Sonny was an amazing person, and they can see how much we loved each other. And we did love each other, so much.

"And it has been hugely helpful during this time. It doesn't take away his loss, but it makes me proud of who he was and what our relationship was. Going through this, it has been hard. But I would not give up what we had to avoid the pain."

Heather Melton said the couple had talked about going to a Titans game this season. She said he was excited about the season, and the prospects of a playoff season.

At the end of a 20-minute interview, she laughed when she was told she'd be required to bury a sword in the ground as part of her duties as the 12th Titan.

Then she imagined what Sonny would think.

"Oh, he'll probably be laughing, shaking his head, saying, 'That's my girl. There she is again'," she said. "He was never surprised by anything I did. I was always the one out there, and he was the one in the background. I know he'll be laughing, but he'll be proud of me, I know he will.

"I'll always miss Sonny, but when I think about him, the memories make happy. We just have to keep smiling, because that's what he did all the time. Sonny was always smiling."

TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the Houston Texans. (AP Photos, Donn Jones)

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