Ryan Knauss, Last American Killed in Afghanistan, Honored at Fort Bragg

May 27, 2022Jenna Biter
ryan knauss

US Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss was assigned to the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion, 8th Psychological Operations Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of the 8th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne).

Ryan and Alena Knauss bought a home near Fort Bragg in Pinebluff, North Carolina, in late 2019.

His grandfather, Wayne Knauss, told Coffee or Die Magazine last year that the young couple had quickly made it their own.

“They fixed it up,” the elder Knauss said. “It had a garden. It had a little chicken house that had some chickens there and a little hothouse for the wintertime for some plants to grow. They were working on the house, making it nicer. We were really proud of the way they work. They were moving along really nice — just an ideal, lovely young couple.”

ryan knauss memorial
Ryan Knauss and his wife, Alena. Ryan Knauss was among the 13 US service members killed Aug. 26, 2021, in a suicide bombing at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

But in the summer of 2021, Knauss rushed to Kabul, Afghanistan, as one of the secretive soldiers in the Army’s 9th Psychological Operations Battalion. There, he was one of 13 Americans killed by a suicide bomber at the Abbey Gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport.

US Army Special Operations Command held a ceremony Thursday, May 26, to install Knauss’ name on the command’s Memorial Wall of Honor on Fort Bragg. Knauss’ family, other Gold Star families, and fellow soldiers were present to see his name join those of almost 1,200 other special operations soldiers killed in the last 60 years. USASOC commander Lt. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga oversaw the ceremony, which the command holds each year in conjunction with Memorial Day to add the names of fallen soldiers.

While the 12 other service members killed in the Kabul blast — 11 Marines and one Navy sailor — died at the scene of the attack, Knauss was found alive and rushed into surgery, where he died, making him the last American service member killed in Afghanistan.

Knauss’ name was the only one added this year.

ryan knauss memorial
Tennessee residents line the roads for the procession of fallen Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss in Coryville, Tennessee. Screenshot from Department of Defense video.

Knauss, 23, was serving as a psychological operations specialist in the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion, 8th Psychological Operations Group, when the suicide bomber struck on Aug. 26, 2021. Knauss enlisted in the US Army in 2016 and deployed to Afghanistan for nine months during 2017 and 2018 as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division before joining the secretive psychological operations community.

“Today marks the first Memorial Day since we closed our last chapter after two decades of service and sacrifice to the nation in Afghanistan,” Braga said.

In an interview with NPR, Knauss’ widow, Alena, remembered the Tennessee native as a selfless soldier.  

“He never saw anything else for himself,” she told NPR. “He was one of those people that, anything he wanted to do, he could have done. He was brilliant. But he just wanted to serve his country. It’s all he wanted. He thought that was the best way he could help people.”

Read Next: ‘The Ship Is Going to the Surface’ — Bad Navigation, Poor Leadership Led to Submarine Crash

Jenna Biter
Jenna Biter

Jenna Biter is a staff writer at Coffee or Die Magazine. She has a master’s degree in national security and is a Russian language student. When she’s not writing, Jenna can be found reading classics, running, or learning new things, like the constellations in the night sky. Her husband is on active duty in the US military. Know a good story about national security or the military? Email Jenna.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Soflete: How This Veteran-Led Company is Changing Military Fitness Culture

In 2014, Soflete’s co-founders saw workout overkill hurting their peers as they prepared for selecti...

glock 19
Glock 19: Origin Story of a Legendary Pistol

Get to know the Glock 19 — how it works, who uses it, and why it’s one of the most popular handguns in the US.

afghan soldier asylum
Afghan Soldier Who Helped US Weathers Injuries, Uncertainty in Asylum Bid

Afghan soldier who assisted the U.S. now faces uncertainty in bid for asylum.

The Dirty Dozen
‘The Dirty Dozen’: Meet D-Day’s Real Rogue Commandos

The Dirty Dozen was based on a real team of rule-breaking elite paratroopers who jumped into France ahead of D-Day.

d-day 79th anniversary
Normandy Marks D-Day's 79th Anniversary, Honors World War II Veterans

This year's D-Day tribute to the young soldiers who died in Normandy is not only a chance to honor t...

f-22 raptor
The F-22: The Superiority Fighter That Never Shot Down an Enemy Plane

The F-22 Raptor was designed to fight next-gen Russian fighters. So far its only air-to-air kills are a Chinese balloon and a UFO.

Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway: Where America's March to Victory Began

The US Navy outwitted and outfought the Imperial Japanese Navy to secure victory in the do-or-die Battle of Midway.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved