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Service & Sacrifice: The last soldier, a father’s grief

"I'm very honored, humbled, and I was blessed to be his dad," said Greg Knauss, reflecting on his soldier son, Ryan. He was killed in August 2021 in Afghanistan.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Memorial Day is a day to both honor and reflect on the sacrifice of men and women who have given their lives in service to the U.S. 

Among the names added this year to the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial in downtown Knoxville is the name of a 23-year-old graduate of Gibbs High School. And for the first time, 10News sat down for an extended interview with Greg Knauss to learn more about his son Ryan.

“You know, I did try to raise him to be a hard worker. He was very smart, and made excellent grades. He was, you know, I had him for 18 years. And then, he was sworn in,” said Greg Knauss who learned about the death of his soldier son Ryan in August of 2021 from an Army casualty notification team. 

It was the beginning of a wave of heartfelt tributes to a young man identified as the last American soldier killed in America’s longest war.

“It feels like there's a piece of me missing,” said Knauss, around nine months after his son died in a blast from a suicide bomber. 

The Army staff sergeant volunteered to help evacuate people from Afghanistan during a U.S. exit from that war that turned chaotic in the final days.

A few days after his death, fellow soldiers escorted the remains of Ryan Knauss back to his home in Knoxville for a public memorial service.  Mourners lined the route to pay tribute to that husband, brother and son. 

“It was such a mix of emotions. I was proud [and] I was humbled that many people would stop their day and stand on the side of the road to acknowledge Ryan to honor him,” said Knauss. "I understand everybody grieves differently. And so there's, there's no right or wrong way to do it. But I'm a Christian and the Lord's carrying me through this, no doubt."

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