Today I had a unique view of a funeral procession. The funeral procession of a hometown hero and the last soldier killed in the Afghanistan war – SSG Ryan Knauss.
I stood on the side of the road and waited for the funeral procession like hundreds of others. I didn’t have a bird’s eye view or anything special like that. But I do have a background that affords me the view of this funeral procession like few others. I saw this funeral procession today as a veteran, father and a citizen.
As a veteran, it is hard to watch a funeral procession. In the back of a veteran’s mind there is always the thought – that could have been me at one time. Veterans serve our country with no guarantee that we will return in the same manner that we left. That is a forgone conclusion. And to see a fellow service person come back home in a hearse just doesn’t sit well with most. It is a deep understanding of the sacrifice that was offered.
As a father it is sobering to discuss with your family – my son in particular. Austin graduated high school with SSG Knauss. They were not that close of buddies, but his cousin and friend were close with Ryan. When we speak of Ryan I can tell that my son is pondering these conversations in his head. For a classmate to die is still fairly unique to these young adults. They still do not have the proper perspective to process it all. I also know that he is thinking of his cousin and friend who are really having a hard time processing this loss. Only thing I know to do is to talk honestly about these situations.
Lastly I watched this funeral procession through the eyes of a citizen of East Tennessee. I saw all walks of life stop their busy Thursday to stop and watch this funeral procession pass by. I saw hundreds of people put all their differences in this world aside to pay respect to a young man who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their freedom. All walks of life stood in silence, waiving flags or saluting as the motorcade slowly passed by. I saw my community stand together as Americans which made my heart swell with pride.
My view was not totally unique, but it was one of thankfulness, humbleness and pride. The emotions were hard to describe and hold back.
Today I was reminded of the blessings I have in my life and thankful for those who realize the ultimate sacrifice paid by so many others.