KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville police officers on Friday delivered a special painting they commissioned from a local artist to the family of fallen U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss' family to honor his courage and sacrifice.
The Knoxville Police Department said its officers were devastated in late August after learning the Gibbs High School graduate and 12 other servicemembers were killed in explosions outside Kabul's airport during the final days of the U.S. military's withdrawal from Afghanistan.
"We have been inspired by his story, his courage, his selflessness and his sacrifice on behalf of our country," KPD said. "Ryan graduated from nearby Gibbs High School and many of our officers are current or former members of the United States armed forces, so we wanted to do something for his family to honor his memory and serve as a lasting reminder of his sacrifice."
KPD said a few of its officers reached out to Knoxville artist Heather Wolfe to see if she could help. Wolfe said she was honored to have the opportunity to pay her respects to Knauss and his family by painting a portrait of him in his dress uniform in the picture seen below.
KPD said Wolfe made one noteworthy change from the picture: she included the medals and commendations Knauss received posthumously, which includes the Purple Heart.
"Heather was honored to have the opportunity to help and pay her respects, and she did so by commissioning this stunning portrait of Staff Sergeant Knauss to give to his family," KPD said. "After speaking with our officers about this project, Heather worked tirelessly around the clock to complete it and finished it in less than three days."
KPD said Wolfe did not take payment for the painting, and instead asked that the department collect donations from officers and staff to be given to Knauss' family.
"We are eternally grateful to Heather for her efforts on this incredible portrait and her generosity," KPD said. "We hope that this portrait serves as both a source of comfort for the family and as a reminder of the immense gratitude that our department, city and country have for Staff Sgt. Knauss’s heroism and ultimate sacrifice."