Hundreds of veterans, friends and community members came to support the family of American hero U.S. Air Force Col. Roy Abner Knight, Jr. as he was laid to rest with full military honors in Holder’s Chapel Cemetery in Cool Saturday morning.
Knight was shot down on May 19, 1967, while attacking a target on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos during the Vietnam War. His remains were discovered and identified this year, 52 years after he was shot down, by personnel assigned to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
Family members of Knight — who was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and six Air Medals — gave heartfelt speeches during his service.
“I knew from an early age he exhibited characteristics that he had when he served in Southeast Asia, and that’s grit and compassion. He always treated me with dignity. I loved the guy and he did so many things for me to show his love,” Knight’s brother, Dr. Bill Knight, said. “It was his duty and he was called to that dreadful duty, and he performed it well. His whole mission was about compassion. He was trying to save the lives of his Air Force compatriots who were shot down over North Vietnam. He wanted to save lives and he did, and then he was killed.”
Knight’s youngest son and Southwest Airlines Captain Bryan Knight was able to fly his father’s remains back to Love Field Airport in Dallas before the services.
“As I look at the monument here, I’m so very thankful that we have that now. We have a place where we can honor the sacrifice and until today, the only place I could really feel close to him was the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. Somehow running my fingers across his etched name made me feel closer to him. Looking at that beautiful memorial, it’s impossible to not to be affected by the sheer magnitude of names and the enormity of the loss. Over 58,000 names on that memorial, each on representing a massive family tragedy,” Bryan said. “For me that memorial represents the theft of what should have been. The loss of a husband who never taught lessons to his sons and daughter or the grandfather was never there to play with his grandchildren. Sadly, memories of father faded with time, but I do remember feeling safe and loved.”
Knight’s only daughter, Gayann Knight, discussed a memory of her father when he gave his children new fishing equipment, including tackle boxes, which she was unable to use before her father left for Vietnam.
“That was just one of the things he gave me, the love of fishing, and there was so much more that I did not get to experience because he was gone,” Gayann said. “What we saw in the past few days, bringing dad from Dallas to here, you people are the best in this nation, I swear.”
Knight’s son, Roy A. Knight, III, said his father set the example of love for him.
“By his example, I know what a man loving a woman should look like, I know what love should look like, and I’ve been blessed for 44 years, so I guess I got that part figured out. He is my hero,” Roy said. “I want to thank you all for being here to honor my father. Dad has come home.”
Knight was laid to rest alongside other family members, including his parents and brothers.