KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As people around the country celebrated a long weekend, members of a Knoxville family are among those experiencing Memorial Day without a loved one. The family of Knoxville hero Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss joined other families around the country who are mourning loved ones killed while serving our country.

Ryan’s father, Greg Knauss, and his stepmother, Lannae, told WATE 6 that they have always recognized the importance of Memorial Day, but they never understood how it felt to experience Memorial Day after loss. That has changed as they remember their son who was killed overseas in Afghanistan last year.

“It’s a special day. Of course it’s much more personal this time,” said Greg Knauss, Ryan’s father.

Monday morning, Knauss and his wife listened as Ryan’s name was called out as one of the 18 veteran names being etched into the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial.

“This whole process has been very surreal,” Knauss explained. “Being dad and having your son honored like this, it’s a range of emotions.”

Although the past year has been filled with grief, it’s also been filled with community support. Knauss was one of the last American soldiers killed during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Ryan’s memory can be found across his hometown of Knoxville as well as Corryton— where he graduated from high school.

“The outpouring from day one has just been overwhelming in a good way,” Knauss said.

As family members navigate Memorial Day without him, Ryan’s father asks the community to remember the true meaning of memorial day and those, like his son, who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

“Remember what Memorial Day is about. We enjoy incredible freedoms in this country and in our state because of the sacrifice of so many, so many way before Ryan. We have to value and take care of that.”

The East Tennessee Veterans Memorial is located at the World’s Fair Park in downtown Knoxville. Find directions, hours and more on the memorial’s website.