CORRYTON, Tenn. (WATE) — The community in Corryton gathered at Gibbs Ruritan Park Saturday to celebrate the life of Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss.

Knauss was originally from Corryton, and graduated from Gibbs High School before joining the army in 2016. In 2021, he was serving in the 8th Psychological Operations Group when he was killed in the Kabul airport bombing. Knauss was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in the attack.

His mom, Paula Knauss-Selph, was touched by the turnout at the event Saturday.

Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss (Photo: U.S. Army)

“They’re friends, they’re neighbors, they’re our family, these people that you see here, they’re just men and women who have great honor in what they do, but they’re giving great honor to those that deserve it,” she said.

She said her son was always a leader.

“Among his men they said he was an influencer, and that’s what it takes to be a good leader is to be a good influencer. Ryan studied all of his life, all the history of men and women who were great leaders in our country, and he decided that’s what he wanted to be,” she said.

The celebration started with a freedom ride from the UT Primary Care Center in Halls to Gibbs Ruritan Park, which Jeff Crum of Vets4Vets helped organize.

“He was a brave young man, volunteered to do what he needed to do, so every year we want to honor him and let his mother know that he’s not forgotten and he never will be forgotten. As long as I got breath in my body I’ll always remember this young man,” Crum said.

Knauss was a graduate of Gibbs High School, and Colonel Robert Reed with the JROTC program said his cadets continues to learn about Knauss’s legacy.

“He graduated the year before I took over as the senior army instructor so I was not able to meet him at the time but I’ve met his family and spent a lot of time doing things for them, and they actually benefit us and it’s a wonderful thing for my cadets as they go on and get scholarships for them,” Reed said.

Knauss-Selph also emphasized the celebration wasn’t just in honor of her son.

“We miss them. I miss Ryan. I’ve gotten to know the 13 families. They’re everywhere across the nation right now, telling people how much they miss their children. It shouldn’t have happened, we lost them, but we can’t bring them back so we move forward,” she said.