The young widow of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, one of 13 service members killed a suicide bomb attack at Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, said her husband “would not regret” being called for the mission to evacuate Americans and refugees, adding “if he knew the outcome, he would do it again.”
“We were just blissfully happy,” Alena Knauss said of life with her husband and high school sweetheart, whose remains were transported back from Afghanistan in a flag-draped coffin. “I have no regrets.”
“For him, it’s the ultimate honor he could give back to his country,” she told WBIR. “To help those people and to know he was helping people, he would not be sorry. He would not regret it.”
The pair attended rival high schools near Knoxville, Tenn., and met when Alena was just 15 working at a local pizza parlor. The married couple shared a home together near North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, where Ryan was stationed and assigned to the 9th Battalion, 8th Psychological Operations Group.
He joined the U.S. Army in May 2016. The couple were wed that same year.
“The last thing I had texted him was, ‘Hey, I love you. When you get the chance, I know you’re busy. But can you please just text me and let me know you’re ok?’” Alena told WTVD, speaking on camera in a separate sit-down interview. “And he never got to respond to that.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss with his wife, Alena. (Family Handout)
Ryan Knauss had just completed his Psychological Operations training and had hopes of serving in Washington, D.C. He was the only U.S. Army soldier killed in the Aug. 26 attack. He enlisted after graduating in 2016 from Gibbs High School, where he was involved in the JROTC program. A former elementary school classmate showed WBIR photos of a past yearbook, suggesting Ryan had an interest in serving from an even younger age.
“I want to be a Marine,” he scrawled in the yearbook at the end of his second grade year.
“He did exactly what I believe any service member would do for their country but he did it. He was right in the field of work he wanted to be in,” Alena said of her husband’s service in Afghanistan. “And if he knew the outcome, he would do it again.”
“I’ve never lost someone, and, God, how tragic that it was the person that I cared about the most. But for me it’s hard to be so sad when we were so happy,” she continued. “I might be in denial. I might be going through my grieving process but at the moment it’s more of just a strange clarity of how grateful I am that he chose me and we chose each other. And it wasn’t enough time. And I’ll always be robbed of that time. But God, the time we had was so blissful.”
“I think the only person he was scared for was me. He did not question his job,” she said. “If they needed him in the middle of the woods at 4 a.m., he’d be in the middle of the woods at 4 a.m. If they needed him in Afghanistan in 30 minutes, he’d be there.”
“His only qualm, I think, was leaving me behind,” she said. “Everything gets better with time, but this is one of those things where it’s going to be a long time. He is one of those presences that will always be missed by even people who passed him on the streets and especially by me.”