Every day, someone in the military makes the ultimate sacrifice, giving their life for their country. Unfortunately, not all of them are able to be properly reunited with their family.
Bryan Knight finally got the reunion he was hoping for. In 1967, his father was killed in action during the Vietnam War. This month, he was able to bring his father’s remains home personally.
When Bryan Knight was a child, he used to watch prisoners of war step off planes when they returned to the United States throughout the Vietnam War, hoping that one of those prisoners of war would be his father.
He never gave up hope. Knight was five years old when he saw his father alive for the last time. It was at Dallas Love Field airport that he said goodbye prior to Air Force Col. Roy Knight being shipped to Vietnam.
In 1967, he was identified as missing in action after his plane was shot down over Laos. He was declared dead in 1974. His remains were recovered earlier this year.
Bryan Knight still remembers getting the call. He felt that it was surreal because he never thought it would actually happen. As an Air Force veteran himself, he understood just what it meant for the ultimate sacrifice to be done.
Air Force Colonel Chris Hawn was responsible for escorting Knight’s remains from Hawaii, which were then passed over to Bryan Knight. Hawn was also in attendance at the funeral, calling it the most impactful experience as well as the highest honor of his 22-year career.
Knight, now a commercial airline pilot with Southwest Airlines, was able to do something that not many people are able to do.
He was able to fly to Dallas Love Field airport, the same place that he’d seen his father last. This was so that he could recover his father’s remains and provide a proper burial.
Jackson Proskow, a DC-based journalist, was at the airport in order to capture the momentous occasion. Many busy travelers stopped at the airport, taking the time to welcome him a fallen war hero back stateside.
When the plane touched down, a message was received in the cockpit, welcoming Colonel Knight back home. It acknowledged that, while he is gone, he will never be forgotten. It was an incredibly touching moment that allowed the fallen pilot to receive the proper welcoming that he deserved after his sacrifice.
Although Bryan Knight had to grow up without a father, he grew up understanding that his father was a war hero. Since his father’s remains were lost for 50 years, the idea that he’d ever have a proper place to pay respects to his father was lost as well.
Being able to be the one to recover his remains was an amazing opportunity – and one that he was thankful he was able to do, with Southwest providing him with the ability to do so.
Not all stories end as happily as Knight’s story does. Too many times, fallen war heroes are not reunited. Their bodies are never recovered or they do not have any surviving family members by the time they are finally found and returned to the United States.
Knight is aware of just how special this was. Bryan’s brother and the eldest son, Roy Knight III, said what everyone was thinking during the service: “Dad has come home.”
He was able to share some memories that Bryan wouldn’t have remembered, including coming home from a day on base in a sweat-stained flight suit. The eldest son called his dad “my hero.” Gayanne, the third sibling, was in attendance at the service as well.
All three children, who are now grown adults, received a flag by the US Air Force honor guard who were in attendance to lead the military ceremony. Gayanne also thanked the community for helping to raise her and her two brothers after her father was declared MIA all of those years ago.
A proper funeral service was finally conducted for the Col. Once listed as missing in action, his remains were brought down to Cool, Texas. Full military honors were given at the service, which was held at the United Methodist Church’s Holder’s Chapel.
Down the narrow road, it was lined with American flags of all sizes, showing just how much he meant to the country, the community, and the family. There were tears and laughter for all who were in attendance and relief that he was finally brought home where he belongs.