Airport Terminal Comes to Standstill as Remains of Hero Vietnam War Pilot Return Home

Roy A. Knight, Jr., who was killed during the Vietnam War, was accounted for June 4, 2019. (Image: Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency)
Roy A. Knight, Jr., who was killed during the Vietnam War, was accounted for June 4, 2019. (Image: Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency)

A traveling journalist captured a moving moment of patriotism Thursday, narrating via Twitter as a terminal full of busy travelers stopped what they were doing to give a hero's welcome to a fallen pilot from the Vietnam War.

Jackson Proskow, Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief for Canada's Globalnews.ca and Global National, was waiting at the Dallas Love Field airport en route to D.C. from El Paso when his attention was arrested by an announcement on the intercom.

According to his Twitter account, the terminal was told that the incoming plane at the gate was carrying the remains of Air Force Col. Roy Knight, a recipient of the distinguished Air Force Cross declared missing in action after being shot down while attacking a target on Laos's Ho Chi Minh Trail. Knight's remains were finally identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in February.

It was a momentous occasion -- but the pilot of the plane returning Knight to his home country made it even more significant and special.

"As we wait at the gate, we're told that Captain Knight is coming home to Dallas," Proskow tweeted. "When he left from this very airport to fight in Vietnam his 5 year old son came to the airfield and waved goodbye. It was the last time he would see his father alive."

That son, Bryan Knight, was the Southwest Airlines pilot who flew his dad's remains home.

"The entire terminal has come to watch this arrival," Proskow tweeted.

As the plane pulled up to Gate 12, water jets on either side from airport fire trucks created an arch. Airport workers on the tarmac stood at attention in tight rows, in photos Proskow posted.

Inside the terminal, people crowded against the windows three deep to watch as the airplane pulled up and Knight's flag-draped casket was escorted off by uniformed troops.

"Incredible moment to watch. The entire airport fell silent," Proskow tweeted.

According to Knight's obituary, he served at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas as an instructor pilot before receiving orders for Southeast Asia in 1966. He deployed to join the 602nd Fighter Squadron (Commando) at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in January 1967. He was shot down May 19, 1967, and received his Air Force Cross posthumously for his final mission. He was 36 when he died, and his awards also include the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart.

"Col. Roy A. Knight, Jr., will be coming home to Texas with a Dignified Arrival on August 8, 2019," his obituary reads. "He will be flown home by his son, Bryan, a Captain with Southwest Airlines, to Dallas Love Field, the same airport where 5-year-old Bryan said goodbye to his father when he left to go to war fifty-two years ago."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her at @HopeSeck.

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