Shelton, NE, pop.1140 is an unassuming small town just past the center part of the state not far from a town called Wood River. Both lie along this stretch of Route 30 that runs parallel to Interstat 80 to the south and to the Union Pacific Tracks that are 100 meters to the north. On the edge of town is a John Deere Farm Implement dealer, across from a large grain elevator. A small ice cream store sits deserted along the road, its menu still in the window. Hamburgers for $1.50, slushies for $1.00 and assorted floats and sundaes. I can imagine this must have been the gathering place for many kids back in the day. Boys eyeing girls and girls eyeing boys. In a small town like this everyone is close. You feel that your neighbors children are almost your own. To lose one feels almost the same. In the front of the store under a huge shade tree is a bench and it is here that I would sit with the father who had lost a son. Wain Codner had heard about me through the grapevine that exists along this highway. He found me taking a break and sat with me and told me Kyles story. They were farmers south of town. Kyle was a good son. He wanted more though than to continue farmng and joined the Marines soon after turning 18. He graduated from Boot Camp on Fathers Day 2005. To this day his parents don’t really know why he chose to serve his country. In a journal they discovered long after he was gone there is an excerpt dated 9/11/01. It read, ” I can’t pull myself away from the t.v., I wish I had the courage of those Port Authority Police and the Firemen.” Kyle Codner was patriotic and he loved his country. Like many before him and since he felt an obligation to serve. I close my eyes and try to imagine his life. I look down the long gravel road that leads to his house, a road he probably learned to ride a bike on, to drive on and drove tractors on. The road now bears the name, Kyle Codner Memorial Road. I run past trains that sit vacant, trains he probably threw rocks at and like any boy probably put pennies on the track to be flattened beyond recognition. I hear locusts singing in the trees and imagine they must have serenaded him to sleep many a summer night. I imagine that days in the fields in this Nebraska humdity built strong character and work ethic. He was engaged to be married upon returning to the states from his tour of duty and in his last phone call said he wasn’t afraid of dying just of not being able to spend the rest of his life with his wife to be. The next day he was gone. In one short year a light that had shone so brightly over Shelton, NE for 19 years was now out.
I spoke that night in a small VFW in Wood River, NE. Wain and Dixie Codner were there. Before he left Wain told me that the biggest fear a family has is that those they have lost will not be remembered. I have been told that people look at these mile markers differently now. That they remember those who are gone. That is a good thing. We owe that to the Kyle Codners of this world. We owe it to the generations that have passed before us so that no one is forgotten.