KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — An East Tennessee family is in mourning after learning Friday that their son, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, died in a bombing outside Kabul's airport the day prior.
Knauss' family and friends said he attended Gibbs High School and joined the military shortly after graduation.
Gibbs High School teacher Dean Harned said he had Knauss in his classroom back in 2014. He taught AP U.S. History.
"In 20 years of teaching, I've had a great opportunity at Gibbs High School to teach extraordinary athletes, scholars and just all-around great kids," Harned said. "I never dreamed I'd get to teach an American hero."
For Harned, he said it's hard to see the loss of a U.S. serviceman close to home. He said he remembers Knauss as a respectful, reserved and kind man.
"Ryan was one of those young men that when he walked in my door, like a typical Gibbs kid, you're gonna get a lot of 'yes sirs' and 'no sirs,'" Harned said. "He was always extremely respectful."
Harned remembers his smile the most and how he could turn someone's bad day into a good day.
"He just made class fun," Harned said. "His classmates absolutely adored him."
Harned said Knauss left Gibbs High School a better place. He said he won't forget the impact Knauss left on the East Tennessee community.
"This young man is not just a hero to Gibbs high school, he is a hero to our nation and the greatest among us," Harned said.
Family, friends and loved ones are hurting, asking for prayers.