A Christian school in East Tennessee has dedicated a memorial to former student and fallen soldier, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, who was killed last August in Afghanistan during the final days of the tumultuous US withdrawal of troops. The suicide bombing killed 13 US service members and at least 60 Afghans at a security perimeter around the Kabul airport.
Berean Christian Academy, where Knauss attended from 2005–2012 (third through eighth grade), dedicated the memorial in December after a record-setting fundraising campaign to honor the fallen hero.
The fundraiser was part of a program the school calls ‘Berean Blessings’ in which students can nominate a need in the community, raise money, and contribute. The coach who oversees the program said he has never received so many nominations for a single need as those who wished to honor Sgt. Knauss. Typically, the program raises $300-500 for a need. In this case, $8,000 was raised.
Some of the money went to the memorial flag pole and stone bench, which has the words ‘Bravery and Courage’ etched onto its face. The remainder of the funds have gone into a scholarship bearing Knauss’s name—funds designated for graduates of the school who will go into the armed forces or exhibit bravery and courage in some distinct way.
During the dedication ceremony at the school last month, the University of Tennessee Army ROTC Cadet Corps raised a flag, once flown over the US Capitol, after which Taps was played.
Then Sgt. Knauss’s mother and father each spoke. His mother spoke of her son as a ‘true patriot’. She remembered her son’s time at Berean Christian Academy as a younger man, the impact the school had, and the friends her son made.
Knauss’s mother also spoke of the people at the airport in Afghanistan who she said wanted freedom, adding, “Freedom is not free.” She directly addressed the young people who were listening:
Ryan had a purpose. And as young as he was, he lived his purpose out. And whatever you do in life, choose the Lord to guide you on that way and you’ll never falter. The struggles you have, bring them to Him, and He’ll show you the way.
“Ryan left you a legacy of what it means to lay down your life. …If you wish to see him, he is no longer here. His grave lies in Arlington, among the great leaders and many in our country,” she went on. “We thank Berean for having part of that, for bringing him up with Christian values and helping us raise a good man. Thank you.”
Sgt. Knauss’s father also spoke, expressing thanks to the school for the memorial. “We have experienced God’s answers to countless prayers, and have been loved on by so many. It’s been overwhelming but in a good way. Today marks yet another example of that.”
He also had a message for the students who were listening:
If I can encourage especially you young people: We have been blessed to live in a great land. We enjoy multiple freedoms. We need to cherish that and take care of that and continue it in everything we do—as citizens, as voters, in our careers, in whatever we choose to do, in whatever God leads us to do. We need to be mindful of that.
Berean Christian Academy is located in Knoxville, Tenn. A recording of the dedication is viewable below: