CORRYTON, Tenn. (WTVF) — A very special memorial took place in one East Tennessee high school this week. A portrait of SSG Ryan Christian Knauss, a graduate of Gibbs High School, will now watch over the students who follow in his footsteps, trekking down the same, familiar halls.
Ryan was evacuating innocent civilians at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 26, 2021, when he was killed by a suicide bomber. He was the last American soldier to die in Afghanistan.
“Today we honor someone who begged to go to Gibbs High School, so he could join the ROTC, because he couldn’t do that in the school he was at,” said Paula Knauss Selph, Ryan’s mother. “We honor Ryan, and we honor those who will be serving in the military in the future. We don’t forget that they take up where he’s left off.”
Several members of the Knauss family joined Lt. Governor Randy McNally, Senator Becky Massey, Representative Dave Wright, Representative Michelle Carringer, Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr., Chairman of the Knox County Board of Commissioners Richie Beeler, Gibbs High principal Jason Webster and Knox County School Board member Mike McMillian for the ceremony.
“The staff of the Tennessee Department of Treasury was deeply affected by the death of Staff Sergeant Knauss and felt compelled to honor him in every way that we could,” Treasurer Lillard said. “This portrait will help memorialize for all current and future students at Gibbs High School, and the people of Corryton, the life, service, honor, and ultimate sacrifice of Staff Sergeant Ryan Christian Knauss.”
Accompanying the portrait is a framed resolution passed by the Tennessee General Assembly to honor Ryan Knauss, sponsored by Massey, with 30 co-sponsors in the Senate and 90 co-sponsors in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
“The words of this resolution, while they are only words on a piece of parchment, represent the feelings and thoughts of all Tennesseans,” Lt. Gov. McNally said. “We thank Ryan for his sacrifice and for the effort he made to take women and children to safety.”
“We are very honored and humbled,” said Ryan’s father, Greg Knauss. “We are very appreciative of what the State Treasurer’s office has done with this portrait.”