PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss was among the final soldiers killed in the 20-year war in Afghanistan. Now, his mother is dealing with the grief.
Paula Knauss says since birth, her son's destiny was to be a soldier.
"He did his first push-up from the first hour he was born, so he was military-ready from the start," she said.
Knauss says that at 17 years old, her son signed up for the army. By 23, he was already a staff sergeant.
Just a few weeks ago, Knauss says her son volunteered to take a second tour in Afghanistan, a last mission to help evacuate people fleeing the Taliban.
"He said, 'You don't get it, mom. This is what I was meant to do,'" Knauss said.
Knauss said her son worked at the gates of the airport in Kabul, checking the paperwork of the people coming through.
Last Tuesday, Knauss received a message from him that said, 'All good here mom, I love you.'
It was the last time Knauss ever heard from Ryan.
Last Thursday morning, terrorists likely affiliated with ISIS-K bombed the Kabul airport. Thirteen American service members were killed, along with more than 100 civilians.
Among those killed was Staff Sgt. Ryan Christian Knauss.
"We knew you had to do what you had to do. We miss you so much. And we'll see you on the other side," his mother said.
As Knauss grieves, she says she's frustrated with the situation in which the Pentagon put her son and many other troops.
"My son knew the cost of fighting for freedom. But the one thing I'm sure he didn't realize was the price you had to pay for the politics of it," she said.
Now, Knauss' family is planning a funeral. Paula hopes her son can be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
"He will be forever remembered, as helping us in this country, remember what true heroism is," she said.
This story was originally published by Wendi Lane on Scripps station WFTS in Tampa, Florida.