WATCH: Soldiers Line Streets Paying Tribute as Body of Army Sgt. Killed in Afghanistan Laid to Rest

by Matthew Memrick

Tennessee soldiers created a memorial gauntlet as they honored the body of Army Sgt. Ryan Knauss on Thursday. 

Knauss, 23, was one of 13 servicemen to die in an Afghanistan airport suicide attack as the United States worked to withdraw from Afghanistan last month. 

Pentagon officials say Knauss is the last American military fatality in the 20-year U.S. war against the Taliban. In August, news service Reuters reported that the U.S. military death toll from the Afghanistan war since 2001 was roughly 2,500. 

Click here for the serviceman’s obituary.

Many Turn Out To Honor U.S. Soldier Who Died In Afghanistan 

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that hundreds of service members and civilians honored the fallen soldier in the 45-minute procession from the airport to the funeral home. 

Nearly 30 police motorcycle escorts led the motorcade while four local police officers straddled the funeral home hearse. 

According to WATE, the plane traveled from McGhee Tyson Airport. From the airport, officials escorted the body through Knoxville to the funeral home.

On the way, drivers and motorists pulled over to all the escort to go through. Others parked and flew American flags near Sevier Heights Baptist Church and Green Acres Flea Market on Alcoa Highway.

The Mynatt Funeral Home in Halls Crossroads community received the body near Knauss’s hometown of Corryton. 

On Saturday, the funeral service will conduct a memorial service at Gibbs High School’s football stadium in Corryton. 

Knauss graduated from the high school in 2016.

Four days after his death, Knauss’s widow Alena spoke to WFAE about her husband.

“He was brilliant … but he just wanted to serve his country,” Alena Knauss said. “He thought that was the best way he could help people.”

In talking about his service in Afghanistan, Alena Knauss said her husband wanted to help American civilians and Afghan refugees get out of the country.

“That’s why he was where he was at the time because these people needed the help,” Alena said. “That was their only hope.”

Americans Paying Tribute

Since the suicide bombing, Americans across the country have paid tribute to the fallen service members. Bars have lined up 13 drinks, others have flown 13 flags, and many have talked about the group’s ultimate sacrifice.

Knauss and his wife, Alena, lived in Pinebluff. The sergeant was a 9th Battalion, 8th Psychological Operations Group based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Originally, Knauss served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. Family members said the soldier hoped to be stationed in Washington, D.C., after his most recent tour in Afghanistan. He had already served two nine-month terms in 2017 and 2018 in the south Asian country.

After his death, the family received his Purple Heart medal posthumously. 

According to The Pilot, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (N.C.) co-sponsored legislation to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to Knauss and the other 12 fallen U.S. military servicemembers.