Southwest Pilot Flies Home His Fighter Pilot Father's Remains After He Died in Vietnam

The remains of an American fighter pilot who was shot down during the Vietnam War were finally brought home by his son, a Southwest Airlines pilot, on Thursday to the same airport where the two last saw each other more than five decades ago.

Air Force Col. Roy Knight Jr. was shot down during a combat mission on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos in May 1967. He was listed as Missing in Action for seven years, before being declared Killed in Action in 1974, according to Legacy.com.

Knight's remains were not recovered until February 2019, after a team for the Defense Department discovered possible remains and other life support items in an excavated portion of the crash site in Laos. After sending the findings to a lab for analysis, the department announced in June that they belonged to the 36-year-old fighter pilot from Texas.

Knight's remains were brought back to the United States on Thursday by his son Captain Bryan Knight, a pilot for Southwest Airlines. The flight landed at Dallas Love Field.

Canadian journalist Jackson Proskow witnessed Knight's return home while waiting for his own flight in the Dallas airport and documented the event on Twitter. Proskow said the airport announced over the intercom that Knight was being returned home, prompting the "entire terminal" to watch his arrival.

"As we wait at the gate, we're told Captain Knight is coming home to Dallas. When he left from this very airport to fight in Vietnam his 5 year old son came to the airfield and waved goodbye. It was the last time he would see his father alive," Proskow wrote.

According to his obituary, Knight enlisted in the United States Air Force just after his 17th birthday. During World War II, Knight served as a typing clerk in the Philippines, Japan and Korea. In 1957, he was accepted for pilot training in Texas and after the program served as a fighter pilot in France and Germany.

In January 1967, Knight received orders to report to the Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base. He flew in combat missions daily until he was shot down on May 19, 1967.

"Roy loved to hunt and fish, especially with his family," his obituary read. "He also loved sports and was a pitcher for his squadron fastpitch softball teams. He restored a 1931 Model A Ford which he finished as he left for war. He was well-liked and respected by the men with whom he served, particularly the enlisted airmen with whom he had a special connection having been one of them for several years. He will always be remembered as a devoted and loving son, brother, husband, father and friend."

Knight will be buried with full military honors on August 10 in Weatherford, Texas. He is survived by his three children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

southwest airlines jet runway
A Southwest Airlines jet sits on the runway at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 17, 2018. Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images
Southwest Pilot Flies Home His Fighter Pilot Father's Remains After He Died in Vietnam | U.S.