Bryan Knight was 5 years old when he saw his father depart Dallas Love Field Airport for Vietnam. It was January 1967. On Thursday, Knight returned to the same airport, ferrying his father's remains. The Southwest captain had arranged to be the one to fly the remains of Col. Roy Knight into Love Field on the last leg of a long journey that started more than 50 years ago, per Business Insider. Col. Knight—an A-1E fighter pilot from North Texas who joined the Air Force days after his 17th birthday, according to an obituary—flew almost daily combat missions in Vietnam before the 36-year-old was shot down on May 19, 1967. As a gate agent at Love Field announced, per Global News, "Col. Knight ejected from his aircraft, but no parachute was seen deploying" and a search "could not find him."
Remains were finally found near the Laos crash site earlier this year and identified as Col. Knight's in June. "I really didn't think it would ever happen," his son says in a Southwest video. The remains were flown to Hawaii, then to Oakland, Calif., where Knight picked them up. Global News' Jackson Proskow happened to be waiting for that plane, which was next bound for Washington, DC, and wrote of the experience he stumbled upon. Love Field "fell absolutely silent" as Knight's homecoming story was told over the loudspeaker. Then came gasps and tears at these words: "Today," the gate agent said, "the pilot of the plane bringing Col. Knight home is his son." He arrived in Dallas to fanfare, including a water-cannon salute. "We all watched silently as the flag-draped casket was unloaded," writes Proskow, who'd just come from covering the shooting in El Paso. "It was peaceful, it was beautiful, and it was a privilege to watch." (Read more repatriation stories.)