Southwest Airlines pilot flies Vietnam War veteran father's remains back to Texas, 52 years after he went missing in action
A Southwest Airlines pilot made an emotional landing at Dallas Love Field Airport Thursday morning after taking a journey to Vietnam to bring his veteran father's body home.
Bryan Knight, a captain with Southwest, touched down on the tarmac while a crowd of onlookers, who had been informed about the powerful moment over airport intercom, watched in awe from the terminal, according to eyewitness Jackson Proskow.
"Incredible moment to watch," he tweeted. "The entire airport fell silent."
Knight was just 5 years old when he said goodbye to his father, Col. Roy Abner Knight Jr., at the very airport he would fly his body back to decades years later, according to KDFW.
According to his obituary, Col. Knight served as a clerk typist in the Philippines, Japan and Korea before attending Officer Candidate School in 1953. He married his wife, Patricia, after being commissioned a 2nd Lt., and the pair had three children together, Roy III, Gayann and Bryan, who now flies for Southwest.
Col. Knight then served as a fighter pilot in Germany and France before returning to Texas with his family in 1963 to become an instructor pilot. He was called to serve in the 602nd Tactical Fighter Squadron during the Vietnam War in 1966 and reported to Southeast Asia in January 1967. There, he flew combat missions almost daily until being shot down in Laos on May 19 of the same year.
Col. Knight's body was never recovered because of the hostile location where his plane crashed, and he was declared dead by the Air Force in 1974.
He was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and six Air Medals for his actions, his obituary states.
Col. Knight's family remained without closure until February 2019, when his remains were recovered by personnel assigned to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and identified with the help of dental records.
The veteran's casket, draped with an American flag, was flown home by his youngest son so he can be buried with full military honors in Weatherford, Texas, on Saturday, KDFW reports.
Southwest Airlines told AOL.com it was "honored to support [the veteran's] long-hoped homecoming and join in tribute to Col. Knight as well as every other military hero who has paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the armed forces."
"Earlier this year, Captain Knight learned that his father's remains were positively identified which began the mission of returning Col. Knight to his home in North Texas," the company explained. "Today, his son flew his father home to Love Field where he was received with full military honors to express a nation's thanks for his dad's service to our country."