Bryan Knight is an airline captain, flying Boeing 737 aircraft for Southwest Airlines (SWA) in the United States. Southwest is the US airline known around the world – despite not being an international carrier - for pioneering low-fare air travel. The company has provided the business model for others to follow, including Ryanair, whose CEO Michael O’Leary famously went to America to learn how it should be done from SWA’s the late Herb Kelleher, the one who thought up the idea and made it work.
Southwest are also known for something else too; that which beats within. SWA began flying from what had become the secondary airport serving Dallas, Love Field. The airline’s heart, and its very soul, is here, where it began. SWA’s journey from small beginnings is well documented (not least here on KJM Today; see Tyler McDowell’s features - https://www.kjmtoday.com/single-post/2019/01/05/Aviation-The-airline-Herb-built and https://www.kjmtoday.com/single-post/2019/01/09/Aviation-Flying-with-Southwest), and the airline adopted the heart symbol as its own.
It’s as true today as it was when SWA began flying, which makes the airline good to fly with as a passenger and good to work for – as Captain Knight does. He is a native Texan and fifty-two years ago, when he was just five years old, and at Love Field, he waved goodbye to his father Roy, a US Air Force pilot. It was the last time Bryan Knight saw his Dad.
On May 19, 1967, Colonel Knight was shot down over Northern Laos during the Vietnam War and because he came down in hostile territory, his body was never recovered. Having never been found, the Air Force declared him dead in 1974 and his family was forced to move on without closure. Bryan was twelve years old by this time.
The United States however, does not leave it’s fallen behind. Sometimes it may take a while to recover those who never made it home from a conflict but the USA does not let up. If its military cannot do so at the time, then search and recovery will go on. It’s what the country’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency does.
POW/MIA stands for Prisoner of War and Missing in Action and it is this part that the agency excels at. Its good all round actually but if somebody is a POW at least those at home know. It helps. Yet there is a part of a family that stays gone if a loved one’s body cannot return home. It’s not very different wherever you go, anywhere in the world, including the United Kingdom. Grief is grief, no matter who you are. But at least if one can say a final farewell it does make passing a little easier. Just a little.
Life however, has to go on. So Bryan Knight grew up and became a pilot like his dad, and a Captain with Southwest Airlines.
Jackson Proskow, Washington bureau chief for Canada's Global News, was on connecting flights between El Paso and Washington on Thursday August 8 2019, at Love Field when he witnessed, in his words, ‘something incredible’.
Proskow said: I’m at the airport in Dallas, waiting for my flight home to DC from El Paso, and something incredible is happening.
‘Our incoming plane is carrying the remains of an American pilot shot down over Vietnam in 1967. His remains were only recently recovered and identified and brought back to the US.
‘Today the pilot of the plane bringing [Col] Knight back to Dallas is his son. What a privilege it was to witness this moment’.
It is the American way. There are, now, many examples of their fallen returning home and more than a few pass through airports, the coffin covered by the US Flag carried below the passengers in the cargo hold. And when that becomes known, as it often is, the airports stop. Other aircraft wait as the arriving flight is given priority. At the gate, if relatives are on board, other passengers wait too as they are also given priority to leave the aircraft first.
The USA will honour those who fall fighting for it.
So what of the UK? It has its moments and closure comes for those who do come home. But it has also developed a disturbing habit of hounding members of the armed services who may – or may not – have fired their weapons during conflict. There are today a number of cases of former soldiers being hounded, accused of a crime when fighting for their country.
Boris Johnson’s sudden rise to prominence as Prime Minister has resulted in new Ministers being appointed and one of those appointments has been Ben Wallace as Defence Secretary. Wallace is himself a former soldier and stated that, ‘ex-soldiers in their 70s and 80s should be enjoying their retirement – not suffering the trauma of investigators knocking on the door’.
Some of this has arisen as a result of the difficulties in Northern Ireland back in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s but there have also been numerous examples of army personnel accused of crimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Those making the accusations often talk of seeking ‘Justice’. But what is it they really want? Justice or revenge? There is a difference. Yet the dead are still the dead and those left behind will still grieve – regardless of what side one may be on. The fallen are still the fallen.
Is there another country anywhere that asks people to voluntarily sign up to be a soldier, sailor or flyer, send them into battle, before persecuting those same volunteers years and decades later? Possibly. But it should not happen in the United Kingdom. As it does not in the United States.
So Captain Bryan Knight finally brought his father home, fifty-seven years after he left.
There are 1,588 department of defense personnel still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, according to DPAA. But they will not stop searching. The USA does not leave it’s fallen behind. It will not abandon them.
Neither should the UK.
© Kevan James 2019
(Images © Jackson Proskow/Global News)
Colonel Roy Knight RIP
(via Defense POW-MIA Agency)