KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — On Saturday morning, there was a touching tribute to a fallen soldier, by children who didn’t even know him.
The Gibbs Eagles youth football team paid tribute to Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss.
Knauss is from Knoxville, went to Gibbs High School, and is one of the 13 American service members killed in the attack outside Kabul’s airport in Afghanistan earlier this week.
Community members, including a group of 8-year-olds, are recognizing Knauss’ service and ultimate sacrifice.
Before any cheers, high-fives or touchdowns, the young players did something more important than simply playing a game. They honored Knauss by wearing his initials on their wrists and carrying an American flag to the field.
“It’s about the kids. Definitely just making sure they understand what it is, what it means, but at their age trying to censor as much as you can, not making it as brutal as it can be, but making sure they know to show respect and just pride and that freedom isn’t free,” said Gibbs Eagles coach Jonathon Baker.
Before taking on their opponent Catholic, the Gibbs 8 and under team also took a moment of silence.
“I did not know him personally, but I graduated from Gibbs, and grew up in the community. There’s some ties,” Baker said.
While many at the game did not know Knauss personally, it’s clear his heroism has made a lasting impression – even among the youngest of community members.
“I think they know something bad happened. I hope they don’t know what. Just pray and thank God. Ask Him to be with us, protect us but also protect our servicemen and pray for our country’s leadership,” said Baker.
Instead of the traditional post-game handshake, Gibbs and Catholic met for a group prayer. They prayed for Knauss’ family and the families of the other service members who lost their lives.