Lifestyle & Human Interest

Southwest Airlines Pilot Flies Father's Remains Home 52 Years After He Was Killed in Vietnam


Airports are generally insane hubs of activity: people coming and going on business and personal trips of every sort imaginable. You can do a lot of people-watching while you wait and meet all sorts of individuals you’d never otherwise have the chance of meeting.

Passengers waiting to board flights at the Dallas Love Field airport on Thursday, Aug. 8, witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event that many seasoned flyers have never seen.

Jackson Proskow, who is the Washington Bureau Chief for GlobalNews, was waiting with hundreds of others that morning when he realized something unusual was happening.

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People gathered by the floor-to-ceiling windows to watch as a massive blue, red and yellow Southwest plane pulled in and a gate agent narrated the scene before them.

The plane was carrying a very important passenger: Col. Roy Knight Jr., who had fought in the Vietnam War and died in 1967.

According to his obituary, Knight Jr. was born in Garner, Texas, in 1931, one of eight children. He enlisted in the Air Force when he turned 17 and spent the rest of his life as an officer, a pilot, a husband and a father to children Roy, Gayann and Bryan.

Southwest Airlines Captain Bryan Knight flies his father back home to Dallas Love Field for the final time more than 50 years after he was killed in action during the Vietnam War in 1967. (Photo provided by Southwest Airlines.)

“In 1963,” the obituary continues, “he and his family returned to Texas where he became an instructor pilot at Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, TX. In January 1966, he completed his bachelor’s degree through Operation Bootstrap at the University of Omaha.

“That year he received orders for Southeast Asia and reported to the 602nd Fighter Squadron (Commando) at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in January 1967. He flew combat missions almost daily until being shot down May 19, 1967. He was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and six Air Medals for his actions during this time.”

Southwest Airlines Captain Bryan Knight flies his father back home to Dallas Love Field for the final time more than 50 years after he was killed in action during the Vietnam War in 1967. (Photo provided by Southwest Airlines.)
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In the article he wrote for Global News, Proskow said that the gate attendant explained the tragic nature of Knight Jr.’s death after he was shot down: “Col. Knight ejected from his aircraft, but no parachute was seen deploying. A search was undertaken but could not find him.”

Southwest Airlines told The Western Journal that as Knight Jr. had left his family in Texas to answer his final call of duty, he’d left from the Dallas Love Field airport, and waved good-bye to his youngest son, Bryan.

“When Southwest Airlines Captain Bryan Knight was just five years old, he made a trip to Dallas Love Field to send his father, Col. Roy Knight, off to the Vietnam War,” they said. “That day in 1967 would be the last day he saw his father as just a few months later Col. Knight’s jet was shot down, and he went missing in action for decades.”

Even though his father was gone, Bryan followed in his footsteps, becoming a pilot himself — which is exactly what allowed him to participate in the retrieval of his father in the most full-circle, beautiful way possible.

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“Earlier this year,” Southwest continued, “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.

“On Thursday, 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. 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.”

Proskow wrote that the normal hubbub of the airport died down for several minutes while people watched, transfixed, as the war hero was transported one step closer to finally getting the send-off he deserved: “What a privilege it was to witness this moment.”

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