A very dear friend, 95-year old World War II Veteran, Ralph Watkins passed away on Oct. 28, 2020. For several years we were Whataburger breakfast buddies and I enjoyed his tales of service in the Pacific during the war.
Virtually every morning diners would stop by to shake his hand and thank him for his service. He was humbled but honored they would see his veterans cap and acknowledge him.
Dodie and I would also visit him at his home and towards the end through a window outside his hospice bedroom. Among the last things he smiled and said was “tell them I didn’t die of that damn COVID!”
With this article, I’m making good on his request.
Earler today I ran across this picture:
It reminded me of Ralph, my own grandfather, other friends and brave family members and all of our veterans. We owe so much to their service and sacrifice to protect and save our precious freedoms.
Capt. Knight touched down on the tarmac while a crowd of onlookers, who had been informed about the powerful moment over airport intercom, watched in awe from the terminal.
Right before my plane arrived, hundreds of people were watching in silence as the flag-draped casket of the fallen airman was taken off the jet.
Col. Knight served as a clerk typist in the Philippines, Japan and Korea before attending Officer Candidate School in 1953. He married his wife, Patricia, after being commissioned a 2nd Lt., and the pair had three children together, Roy III, Gayann and Bryan.
Col. Knight then served as a fighter pilot in Germany and France before returning to Texas with his family in 1963 to become an instructor pilot. He was called to serve in the 602nd Tactical Fighter Squadron during the Vietnam War in 1966 and reported to Southeast Asia in January 1967. There, he flew combat missions almost daily until being shot down in Laos on May 19 of the same year.
Col. Knight’s body was not recovered because of the hostile location where his plane crashed, and he was declared dead by the Air Force in 1974.
He was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and six Air Medals for his actions, his obituary states.
Col. Knight’s family remained without closure until February 2019, when his remains were recovered by personnel assigned to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and identified with the help of dental records.
The veteran’s casket was flown home by his youngest son to be buried with full military honors in Weatherford, Texas.
One article reported Southwest Airlines said they were “honored to support [the veteran’s] long-hoped homecoming and join in tribute to Col. Knight as well as every other military hero who has paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the armed forces.”
“Earlier this year, Captain Knight learned that his father’s remains were positively identified which began the mission of returning Col. Knight to his home in North Texas,” the company explained. “Today, his son flew his father home to Love Field where he was received with full military honors to express a nation’s thanks for his Dad’s service to our country.”
Raised in San Antonio, Jack Dennis’ early experiences were as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. With a Texas State University bachelor’s degree, Jack studied journalism, education and psychology. He was the founding vice-president of Sigma Delta Chi, the Association of Professional Journalists at the University. Jack has received numerous awards, including Investigative Reporter of the Year from Rocky Mountain Press Association, David Ashworth Community Award, and Leadership in Management.
Some of the people and groups Jack has interviewed include:
Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, George Strait, Roy Orbison, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Steve Wariner, Tanya Tucker, Scotty Moore, Fats Domino, Patty Page, Tommy Roe, Emmy Lou Harris, Johnny Rivers, Charly McClain, Kinky Friedman, John McFee, Guy Allison & Patrick Simmons (Doobie Brothers) , Randy Bachman (BTO), Jim Messina, Todd Rundgren, Alvin Lee, Gary Puckett, The Ventures, Freddy Cannon, Augie Meyer, Christopher Cross, Whiskey Myers, Sha Na Na (John “Bowzer” Baumann), Flash Cadillac, Jerry Scheff, John Wilkinson, Darrell McCall, and more.
Politicians & News
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, Greg Abbott, Rudolph Giuliani, Larry King, Jack Anderson, Tom Bradley, Connie Mack, and more.
Clint Eastwood, Mike Myers, Taylor Lautner, Cameron Diaz, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Selena Gomez, Tippi Hedren, James Earl Jones, James Woods, Jim Nabors, Martha Raye, Rosalind Russell, June Lockhart, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Howie Mandel, Meg Ryan, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Drury, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Alan Thicke, Lou Diamond Phillips, Clint Howard, Tony Sirico, Cesar Romero, Michael Berryman, Tracy Scoggins, William Windom, Warren Stevens and more.
Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Wally Schirra, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Walt Cunningham, Scott Carpenter, Gene Kranz (NASA Flight Director), Ed Mitchell, Richard Gordon, Bruce McCandless, Vanentina Treshkova (first woman in space, Russia), Alex Leonov (first man to walk in space, Russian), Al Worden, Dee O’Hara (nurse to astronauts) and more.
Sports: Joe Torre, Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, Billie Jean King, Manuela Maleeva, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, George Gervin, Tony Parker, Shannon Miller, Cathy Rigby, Bruce Bowen, Wade Boggs, Fernando Valenzuela, Bernie Kosar, Dale Murphy, Jim Abbott, Dick Bartell, Mike Schmidt, Dan Pastorini and more.
May Pang, Bob Eubanks, Vernon Presley, Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Rick Stanley (Elvis’ step-brother, Harold Lloyd (Elvis’ first cousin), Doyle Brunson, Kara Peller, Hank Meijer, Norman Brinkler, Stanley Marcus, Jerry King, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Zach Anner, Louie Anderson, Owen Benjamin, Steve Byrne and more.
As head of Facilities for a major retailer (H-E-B Food/Drugs) for 20 years, Jack co-founded Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) and was elected President to establish PRSM magazine. Jack is a writer, speaker, golf-concierge and happiness coach. He has researched and studied happiness for over 40 years.
Jack was a prolific writer for Examiner.com, with over 1,900 articles written in six years. His articles and stories have appeared in AXS Entertainment, The ROWDY Country Music, Memphis Flash, and numerous magazines.
He is author of “Miracles of Justice,” a true courtroom drama novel about social injustice and miracles.