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.”