‘He’s my little boy’: Father of Knoxville soldier shares memories of son


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss was the 13th service member to die in that attack in the Kabul airport last week. Now, the Knoxville native’s father is sharing more about his son.

“He’s my son, and it’s very surreal to hear him referred to as a hero and things like that,” Greg Knauss said. “You know, he’s my little boy.”

The father says his son wanted to serve this country for as long as he can remember.

“He had a kindergarten teacher, and sometime during the year she asked the kids, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up; what do you want to be?’ Well, his answer was a navy seal.”

Neither of his parents were in the military, but the dream stuck. The desire followed him to high school, where he finally make the dream a reality.

“In between junior and senior year, he asked his mom and I if he wanted to join the army and would we sign off on it so he could start,” Knauss said.

His father said that he always supported his son even with his little military knowledge.

“It was always funny to talk to him because he would give you the army acronyms, and not being in the military, sometimes he’s speaking a foreign language with all the acronyms,” Knauss said.

When word came Thursday night about a suicide attack outside of Kabul’s airport, no military knowledge was needed to understand what that could mean. Friday morning, Knauss when to work on the edge; later that day, he would find out his son was among those who were killed in the attack.

“The army team had come to our home here and had knocked on the door, and Linnae (Ryan’s stepmother) answered it and I got a text from Linnae that asked if I was at the shop, and I texted her back and said ‘yes, what’s up?’ and she didn’t respond back, and of course my brain started going,” he said. “She actually led the army team over to my place of work, and of course, I knew by then, but they did their…um…did what they had to do. It was very moving and sad and it hurt…it hurt.”

Knauss said his family has received hundreds of texts and calls of support from the community. He only wishes he’d gotten more time to see his soldier as a grown man.

“I don’t want it to sound like I’m being sorry for myself, but he graduated high school, and then within a couple or three weeks we put him on a bus to go to basic training,” he said.

Now, he says he is getting to know a son who is no longer here through the army family that is.

“We’ve learned from the support of his unit that we’ve pretty much been, we’re pretty much in it now…we’ve been told we’re family now,” he said. “They said, ‘Well, you’ve pretty much got 190 stepsons and daughters now,’ and we definitely feel like that.”

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