Airport falls silent as Vietnam war pilot’s remains return home on flight flown by his son

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When Bryan Knight was five years old he waved his father off to the US Air Force Maj. Roy A. Knight, Jr., at Dallas Love Field in Dallas, Texas. It was the last time Bryan saw his father.

The 36-year-old Air Force pilot was shot down on May 19, 1967 in northern Laos, and apart from multiple search and rescue efforts, his remains had never been recovered until recently.

On Thursday, Col. Knight–he was promoted to colonel around September 1974 when the Air Force declared him dead–returned home.

Bryan was the captain on the Southwest Airlines flight that flew his father back home to Dallas, where the two last saw each other. On August 8, Dallas Love Field fell silent, something that you dont see every day at the airport.

Jackson Proskow, the Washington Bureau Chief at Global News, was at the airport that day and witnessed the emotional moment when a gate agent made an announcement on the PA system.

His incoming plane was carrying the remains of an American soldier who was shot down during the Vietnam War. Jackson said that as the gate agent informed those in the terminal about the soldier, he started to get emotional, along with many others.

People went round the windows to watch as the plane landed and then taxied under a water salute. “It was kind of a quiet gasp in the lounge area,” Jackson said. “Everybody was sort of standing almost at attention.”

As people lined the terminal’s windows, many of the Southwest and airport employees watched in reverence as the plane pulled into the gate. There was barely a dry eye as Col. Knight’s casket was received with full military honors “to express a nation’s thanks.”

Roy Knight III, Col. Knight’s oldest son who was also present, told reporters, their family was experiencing a lot of emotions bringing their father home after five decades.

And the fact that it did is just remarkable, it’s actually miraculous,” he said. “There’s a lot to this, there’s competing emotions, not only because he’s coming home … which is a good thing, it is a very good thing, but there’s also the aspect that we’re reliving the loss.”

Our Southwest Airlines family is honored to support his 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,” Southwest Airlines said in a statement.

A funeral for Col. Knight will be held on Saturday at Holders Chapel United Methodist Church in Weatherford, Texas. The family will bury the Air Force pilot with any P.O.W.-M.I.A. bracelets that are returned to them in his coffin, according to The New York Times.

They’ve waited five decades for this moment,” Mr. Proskow said. “It was just so dignified and respectful. It’s rare to have quiet time at an airport, especially in the middle of the day. It’s one of those weeks where people are looking for a good news story.”

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