TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – For Paula Knauss-Selph, last week was supposed to be one of the happiest of her life.
The military mom who lives in Seminole had just returned from her honeymoon, still celebrating her nuptials. She was happy, in love, and her son, Ryan, had just sent a photo from Afghanistan via Snapchat where he told her, he loved her.
It would turn out to be the last picture he would ever send.
Two days later, her son, Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss, was killed in combat after a suicide bomber took the lives of 13 service members.
With tears in her eyes, Paula shared with us a message to her son.
“We miss you. We didn’t want you to go. We’re glad you did what you did. Thank you, son,” Knauss said.
Ryan’s mother is currently with family near Knoxville, Tennessee where Ryan grew up and attended high school. His mother is now preparing funeral arrangements for her son after the call she received last Thursday, one she prayed she would never, ever receive.
“Ryan is a part of history,” she explained. “He made his own history. So, Ryan, if you hear me out there, we miss you, we miss you very much. We can’t wait to see you one day.”
This military mom tells us her son was born to be a soldier. She smiled as she recalled one of her favorite stories.
“An hour after he was born, he did his first push-up,” she told 8 On Your Side. “He told me as a child he wanted to be a Marine. Later in life, he decided the Army was a better fit for him. He’s always wanted to do this.”
The young man from Tennessee enlisted, with the permission of his parents, at 17-years-old and never looked back.
He was meant for this life, says his mother. He loved it, all of it and wanted to help people.
For Ryan, it was a lifelong calling, a dedication to service, to country, to freedom and to family.
His best friend was his older brother, Tyler, who also was recently married. Ryan was the best man.
The two brothers have been by each other’s side since they were born. In fact, Paula placed Ryan in four-year-old Tyler’s arms in the hospital and whispered in his ear to take care of your brother.
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Now, Ryan’s brother must take care of funeral services for his best friend.
The young soldier also leaves behind a young wife, a woman Ryan’s mother describes as “her son’s heart.”
He is a hero, Paula tells us, to so many.
“That’s what makes true men, true men of valor,” she said. “They don’t realize what an impact they make on the rest of us.”
She remembers her son, a boy so many years ago, a boy who told her he wanted to be in the military. A boy, she now says, is a man.
The boy she wishes she could once again hold in her arms.
“That’s the way I feel about Ryan right now. Stretch my arms out and hold him. Hear from him, sometimes I call his phone to hear his messages. Just to make sure My boy, we’ll always miss my Ryan,” she explained. “I’ll always miss him.”