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Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss' name read aloud for the first time at Veterans Memorial

Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss was the last service member to die in Afghanistan, as the U.S. pulled military forces out of the country.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Every Memorial Day, a group gathers at the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial to read the names of service members who died, whose names are engraved in the stone of monuments honoring service members who passed away in different conflicts.

For the first time on Monday, Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss' name was read aloud during the annual "Reading of the Names" ceremony. It starts at sunrise every Memorial Day when more than 100 volunteers gather to read the names of people listed on its stone walls.

There are more than 6,300 names engraved on it. Families are encouraged to attend and read the names together, according to the website of the group that organizes the event.

At the end of each ceremony, there is also a dedication ceremony to recognize the names that were added to the memorial during the previous year.

The crowd on Monday included Knauss' family and a friend he knew growing up.

"It's good for people to remember that these are more than names on a wall," said Knauss' friend. "They're real people. That was my friend. That was my best friend."

Knauss was from Knoxville and served in Afghanistan as the U.S. pulled out of the country. Knauss was located near the Kabul airport as people tried to find a spot on a plane headed near the country, as The Taliban claimed control of the capital city.

He was among 13 U.S. service members killed on Aug. 26, 2021, at the Kabul airport when a bomb exploded during those evacuations. The East Tennessee community gathered to mourn in the days and months after. Small memorials were built across Knox County, and scholarships were established in his name.

"We're very comforted by the outpouring of love and the people recognizing Ryan, that's a comfort," said his family. "That's a help to us."

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