This story originally appeared at InspireMore.
Bryan Knight was five years old when he saw his father for the last time. As the two bid each other farewell at Dallas Love Field Airport more than 50 years ago, the boy had no idea it would be their final goodbye.
Col. Roy Knight Jr. had left to serve in the Vietnam war. In 1967, the U.S. Air Force pilot went missing in action after being shot down during an airstrike. His family never got the closure they needed from laying his body to rest — at least, until just recently.
Despite all their efforts, search and rescue teams never found Knight’s remains. He was declared dead in September 1974, seemingly destined to stay lost forever. But incredibly, his body was finally recovered and identified at the site of his crash just this year, decades after his death.
Finally, he could come home — and his son, now a captain for Southwest Airlines and an Air Force veteran himself, would be the one to escort him there.
Bryan (pictured below in the middle) had the honor of flying his father back to Dallas in August. He says the experience was surreal, but it brought him so much comfort and peace.
“At the end of the war, I remember as a kid watching every single POW come off those airplanes and I watched every one of them. Your job and your duty as a family and as a child is to have hope. But as a kid, what you really think is if you don’t do that you’re somehow gonna be responsible for him being lost.”
As the plane touched down in Texas, an entire terminal paused and gathered by the window, silent, to witness the touching event.
“I’m at the airport in Dallas, waiting for my flight home to DC from El Paso, and something incredible is happening,” reporter Jackson Proskow wrote. “As we wait at the gate, we’re told that Captain Knight is coming home to Dallas. When he left from this very airport to fight in Vietnam his 5-year-old son came to the airfield and waved goodbye.”
Thanks to Southwest Airlines, Knight’s return to his final resting place didn’t just bring much-needed closure to his family.
It gave a special stranger closure, too — and answers. The airline uploaded a video of Knight’s story to Facebook, touching the hearts of millions, including Vicki McClelland, who’s had the hero’s POW bracelet since 1972. Now she finally knows what happened to the airman after wondering for decades.
And finally his family was able to bring him home where he belonged.
“We did it. With the help of people literally all over the world, we brought Dad home. It will take me a while to absorb all that happened in the last week but I have to tell y’all how very grateful and thankful I am for each and every one of you. None of us know how many more wake-ups God is going to give us and I sure didn’t want one more to pass without telling you all that the love and respect you all showed my father this last week has been overwhelming and how very much I appreciate you all. ”
Welcome home, Col. Knight, where you can finally rest in peace. Your service and sacrifice will never be forgotten, nor will your ability to bring so many people together in your honor.
Learn more about Knight’s final flight home in the video below, and share to spread thanks to all our service members.