Air Force Pilot’s Son Gets to Fly His Dad’s Remains Home 52 Years After Vietnam
To not be able to properly bury a loved one is a pain unimaginable.
The last time Capt. Bryan Knight last saw his father, it was 1967 and he was five years old. His dad, Col. Roy Knight Jr., was heading to the conflict in Vietnam and in a few short months, he and his plane went missing. On Thursday, Bryan Knight flew his dad home to the place he last saw him, Dallas’ Love Field.
“To be able to do this. To bring my father home. I’m very, very honored,” Capt. Knight said in the interview with Southwest Airlines. “I’m very lucky. How many other people would have this kind of opportunity to do this.”
Capt. Knight followed in his father’s footsteps and became a pilot in the Air Force. Since leaving active duty, he’s now an airline pilot for Southwest Airlines.
Love Field is not only the place father and son waved goodbye back in January of 1967, it’s also the home airport of Southwest Airlines.
Missing in Vietnam
After Col. Roy Knight said goodbye to his family in Dallas he reported to Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base. For the next four months, he flew near-daily missions in southeast Asia. Then, in May, Knight and his plane went missing. We now know he was shot down over what was then enemy territory in Laos.
Fifty-two years later, his body was located near the plane’s wreckage.
Bringing the Fallen Home
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Col. Knight’s remains were transported from Laos to Honolulu, Hawaii and onto Oakland, California. That’s where Capt. Bryan Knight was reunited with his father, albeit bittersweet, for the final leg of the trip to Dallas.
“When I first got the call, it was almost surreal,” Knight said. “I really didn’t think it would ever happen. Wow, you know, he’s really coming home. We’re going to be able to bring him back, and we’re going to have a place where we can honor him.”
As the plane arrived at Love Field, a firetruck water salute doused the plane. Knight’s body received full military honors as the casket was brought off the plane, draped in an American flag. RELATED: Johnny Cash’s ‘Ragged Old Flag’ Has Even More Meaning Today
Coping With Loss
Roy Knight’s other child, his oldest son Roy Knight III, like his dad and younger brother, is also a pilot.
Roy III watched from the ground as his younger brother’s plane carrying their father made its approach in Dallas.
“You have these competing emotions — you’re happy this is resolved,” Roy Knight III said to a local newspaper. “But there’s that uncomfortable feeling of change and coming to grips with reality, then there’s also immense, intense sadness that comes whenever you contemplate the loss of someone that’s important to you.”
Though their mother passed away before Col. Knight’s remains were found, it’s a long-awaited gift that their children — and those along the journey — were able to honor their father appropriately for his final flight home.