PINEBLUFF, N.C. (WNCN) — As we reflect on the lives lost in our nation’s longest war, Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss was the last American service member killed in Afghanistan.
The Fort Bragg soldier was the 13th service member to die in that attack in the Kabul airport last week. His wife, Alena Knauss, is devastated but also grateful.
“You never expect it to be you,” Alena Knauss said. The knock-on her door came at 12:06 p.m. Friday.
Army officials informing her the love of her life, her husband of five years, wouldn’t be coming home.
“I know people are honored to have known him and they’re honored of his sacrifice. I’m honored just to have been his wife. Truly honored,” she said.
Their love story began when they were just 16 years old working at a pizza shop.
“And no work got done at that pizza business, they lost tons of money paying our salaries because we were flirting,” she explained.
Ryan enlisted the next year.
“He had the recruiter literally follow him home that day to get the paperwork signed by his parents because he was a minor and they signed, and he joined up,” Alena Knauss said.
They got engaged and married soon after. CBS 17 asked her about what it was like for her to have her husband so far away.
“Even when I thought I knew where he was, that’s not where he was, which was a lot of the confusion when I found out,” she explained.
Ryan Knauss was 23 years old.
“He is right where he wanted to be,” Alena said.
CBS 17 asked her if the politics of the situation and criticism of the pullout complicated things for her.
“The gift of service members is they do it for the country and not the politicians,” she responded.
“I’m proud of him. I really am.”
She is sharing her story because she wants people to know there’s a story and a family behind each of these service members killed.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family pay for funeral expenses.