I Just Cried: Southwest Pilot Brings His Father’s Body Home From War, 52 Years Later

On May 19, 1967, Roy Knight, Jr. was shot down in Vietnam. The Air Force major was “attacking a target on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. He was missing in action, promoted to Colonel, and seven years later declared killed in action.

In February his remains were recovered, indentified, and he has just been returned to his family — today. And I caught the very first twitter thread to ever make me cry.

I’ve certainly stood by when my inbound plane was an honor flight, bringing World War II veterans to D.C. It’s not an uncommon occurrence at Washington’s National airport, and I’ve had this both flying American and Southwest. Usually the whole gate area stands by at attention and cheers.

Colonel Knight, it turns out was returning to the very same airport he left over five decades ago. This was even more special.

Now wait for it, because here it is.

Colonel Knight was one of 8 children born in Garner, Texas. He enlisted in the Air Force as soon as he turned 17. He was the sixth-oldest male child, all of whom joined the military. He signed up in 1947, after the conclusion of World War II.

He was stationed in the Philippines, Japan and Korea and then in 1953 went to Officer Candidate School and then trained in Laredo, Texas to become a pilot in 1957. He flew the F-86D in Germany and France, and then returned to Laughlin Air Force Base to become an instructor in 1963. However three years later he shipped off for Southeast Asia to fly near-daily combat missions.

The Southwest Captain, who brought his father back to Dallas where he’d said his goodbyes 52 years earlier, can now close a chapter on a life that was “posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and six Air Medals for his actions.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Thank you Gary this is especially poignant to as having made it through 100 missions but left many friends behind. For anyone reading this and served in SEA then you will recognize my online name as it derived from my call sign “Ghostrider”

    CK SX

  2. @Doc Not sure how somebody who most likely bombed and killed thousands of civilians can be called an “American Hero”, but Americans have a strange relationship with their military anyway.

  3. Made the mistake to read this during a meeting. Hope no one saw the tears. A true American hero.

  4. RIP Sir. Thank you for your service. You are a true hero. I’m so glad your family now has closure.

  5. I was an Army UH-1H helicopter pilot with an assault helicopter company in RVN, we flew missions in Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail supporting US Special Forces during 1968. Almost every mission across the fence we had US Air Force Skyraiders supporting our mission. Without them many of us would not have made it back. We loved them! When we lost one, it was like one of us being lost. Colonel knight is my hero!

  6. Sven sounds like the hundreds who now apologize for not having served or hid out in Canada. Shame on you Sven for your comment.

    Alligator 237 was my call sign in 1968.

  7. I’m sympathetic for anyone losing their father. But, let’s be real here, Vietnam was pointless war. Americans thought they were fighting communism when, in reality, the Vietnamese were fighting imperialism. Vietnam was never a threat to America. We just didn’t have it in us to tell the French that their global empire was dead.

    I respect anyone who serves their country, but not those that support a pointless war.

    It’s emotional losing a parent. This pilot and his family should be respected. Anyone that glories this conflict as heroic is sadly mistaken. The real heros are those that protested unnecessary loss of America and Vietnamese life.

  8. Sven dying while doing the job America asked you to do qualifies as an American Hero in my book. Sadly many are too ignorant to see that fact.

    Are policeman, firefighters, etc. who die performing there jobs hero’s? Hell yes. Those entitled who sit back and observe and only benefit from another’s service will never be or even understand that.

  9. Those of you who never served will never understand.
    Loas , Cambodia,Thailand, were supply routes for the NVA. War is hell and civilians
    And Soldiers die.Since I have walked point USMC a first sgt
    Once told
    1: Young men fight our wars
    2: Young men die
    3: Someone has to walk point

  10. No matter how many civilian lives they destroy abroad, American soldiers will remain heroes in the eyes of their fellow citizens, because those foreign civilians are only worthless aliens and America’s interests trump anything else.

  11. You can’t teach respect, honor, or pride, it’s within us. People like Sven don’t get it, never got it, and never will. Wish those people would all go live together on some desolate island.
    RIP Colonel Knight, thank you for your service. What an honor for his son to have been able to bring him home.

  12. Player Z.You are the brainwashed, unwashed, and obtuse superfluous spirochetes of STD’s , posing as the “intelligentsia” of the left. When, in reality , you are useful village idiots for the Obama’s. the Clintons, the waters , sanders, warrens , Pelosi, and the aoc’s. Your grasp of history, civics, , the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, is above your comprehension. The poster child of communism. The really sad part? YOU are OBLIVIOUS as to what you stand for. The NEW PLANTATION, of which, you will be a participant and it will be too late for you, if it is ALLOWED to HAPPEN.You don’t even realize you are the suckers for the left.

  13. It does not take one to serve to understand that:
    1: Young men fight our wars
    2: Young men die
    3: Someone has to walk point
    4: In the Vietnam War, 1-3 were completely unnecessary.

    Go tell the millions of Americans and Vietnamese affected by the conflict that never consented to or supported the war that they “will never understand”. Go tell them they “will never understand” what it feels like to be subjected to extreme violence, starvation, psychological trauma, and/or have their families and communities destroyed.

    There’s no pride in doing something that is not worth being proud of. There were no heroes in the Vietnam war. There were only victims.

    This event should serve as a reminder that these things are completely avoidable if we hold our rulers accountable. If we did, Colonel Knight might still be alive today.

  14. Player Z go check your history, it was a Democrat, Kennedy, then another,
    Johnson who got us there. A Republican, Nixon, got us out. Nobody likes war, we served because our country called us, right or wrong, matters not.
    Many of us lost friends! Heros like Colonel Knight fought to save American
    lives. May God Bless him for giving his life to protect others. Many like him
    protected me and my crew when securing SF recon teams!

  15. Jeff sounds like a perfect world just hold all the rulers in the world accountable. Wish it would happen, until it does those that man the watchtowers around the world on either side are heroes to me.

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