Never Forget Veterans For Their Service to Protect Our Freedoms

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.

Ralph & me celebrating his 93rd birthday.

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.

Read Whataburger With Ralph” by clicking here.

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.

A few years ago I was changing planes at Dallas Love Field when I saw a crowd of people, some visibly crying and emotional, walking away from windows overlooking some sort of ceremony at the Southwest Airlines gates down below.

I was in a hurry, but asked a bystander what was going on.

“A Vietnam veteran is coming home,” the kind lady said, gently waving a small American flag towards me.

I gave a quick salute and hurried on to my connecting flight.

Last week, going through some old files, I found a note to remind myself of the “Vietnam veteran coming home.” Here are the results:

The Veteran was Col. Roy Abner Knight Jr. who as a pilot in 1967 was shot down and his body had only been recently found and identified.

A notable part of this story was Col. Knight said goodbye to his family at Love Field 52 years prior. His son, Bryan, was  only 5 years old when he left to serve our country in Vietnam.

Bryan Knight grew up to  be a Captain for Southwest Airlines.  It was he who flew the plane that brought his father’s remains home back to the same airport where they said what would be their final farewells.

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.”

America Baby Boomers History Lone Star State of Mind Military Politics

Texans Jack & Dodie View All →

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:
Music
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.
Actors
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.
Space Explorers
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.
Notables
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.

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Thank you. Ralph is one of the last members of that amazing generation who considered it their duty and honor to fight for our beloved country.
    My Grandfathers had passed away long before I was born, so it was a privilege for me to unofficially adopt Ralph as my own. Both Jack and I sat spellbound as he told us stories of how it was ‘back then’. It was difficult to determine what we enjoyed most about Ralph – his sharp wit, ready smile, or twinkling blue eyes that seemed to light up the room wherever we were. We also honor, value and respect all Veterans who sacrificed so much for our freedoms. They don’t make ’em like that anymore – they will definitely be missed. God Bless each and every one of them!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: