In the middle of one of the most miserable times to be an American (that is, in the post-shooting news cycle ahead of the gun-grabbing Democratic primaries), we’ve been gifted with a little reprieve in the form of an incredible story of sacrifice.
Boy, did we need this.
According to USA Today, when Air Force Maj. Roy Knight, Jr., left his Dallas home to serve in Vietnam more than half a century ago, his then-5-year-old son, Bryan, came to Dallas Love Field to see him off.
Knight, born in Garner, Texas, didn’t know that he wouldn’t be seeing Bryan again after that heartwrenching “goodbye” moment so many American families have lived through.
Knight was just 36 when he was shot down while attacking a target on the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos on May 19, 1967, according to White’s Funeral Home in Weatherford, Texas. He was leading a flight of two aircraft on a strike mission when he was hit by anti-aircraft fire, according to the Defense POW/MIA Account Agency.
“No parachute was observed prior to the aircraft crashing and bursting into flames,” the agency says. “Additionally, no beeper signals were heard. While search and rescue efforts were initiated, an organized search could not be conducted due to intensity of hostile ground fire in the area.”
Knight, officially listed as MIA, was declared deceased in September 1974. At that point, his son Bryan was just 12 years old.
Although that’s where many stories of American lives lost in Vietnam end, that’s not the end of Knight’s story by a long shot.
“In 1991 and 1992, almost 20 years after the end of the Vietnam war, joint U.S.-Laos teams investigated a crash site allegedly associated with Knight’s loss, recommending it for excavation,” USA Today explained. “From 1994, the site was examined five times.” Fast-forward to this year, when a joint team recovered possible human remains and life support items that led to the identification of Knight’s remains.
At long last, Col. Roy Knight was coming home and—if you can believe it—his son Bryan, now a pilot himself, had the high honor of flying Knight home himself to the same Dallas airport where they said goodbye all those years ago.
“On Thursday, at the airport, hundreds of crew members, onlookers, friends, and military personnel, gathered on the tarmac, according to a livestream by WFAA on its Facebook page. Some brushed away tears, many had their hand over their heart,” USA Today continues.
“Two fire trucks sprayed an arc of water over the Southwest airlines plane, which brought the remains home on the last leg from Oakland, as it rolled slowly to the terminal.”