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The Last Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

By First Sgt Michael Dean

“It's been a long year and day. As I honored SSG Ryan Knauss, I was able to share the story of the last Soldier killed in Afghanistan. I barely knew this man, yet he left an indelible mark on me and so many others.I'll never forget the fight to keep him on this mission. His immediate leadership wanted him on it, he basically begged for it, and I could have stopped it. He was being prepared for something else. However, I agreed and he stayed on this mission. He was theright guy at the right time. At least, I say that over and over to myself. Was he? Probably. However, I still can't get past the thought. I remember the last time I saw him, driving away with the team to catch their flight with me having no second thoughts. What makes it more difficult is the absolute feeling of helplessness since this team went out the door on their own. They were the only PSYOP team on the ground. They worked 12+ hours, everyday. We watched from Ft. Bragg. Updates came, and the once mostly organized operations I was familiar with were described as the wild west. The place was lawless. We heard the reports, and we knew we had injured, but we assumed they were minor. Then the day turned turned dark. My commander and I we're called to the

battalion headquarters. We received the bad news. Ryan didn't make it. It was like a punch straight through the heart. All the questions ran through my mind. Why? How? Why did we let him go? This was supposed to be an easy mission; get the new kid some easy experience to prepare him for the next thing. Was he the right guy? Would he still be here if I had pulled him? Yes. But who else would've been taken? Was he the right guy? Probably. Then, I had to put on a straight face for the boys at the company. That was the hardest thing. We had to wait until the official notifications happened; I had to tell them we had no updates. They had hope in something I knew was lost. He was gone. Why does any of this matter? Well, they dont tell you what you sign up for as a military leader. You know there's a possibility someone will die or be killed. It's part of the profession of arms; it's a sad reality. Hell, I've had friends killed and loaded body bags on helicopters. It sucks, trust me. However, it hits far different when you're the one making decisions that can impact whether or not someone lives or dies. Ryan made such an impact on me, I knew he was born for this. He was going to take our Regiment to new heights. However, his time was cut short. Was he the best guy for the job? Probably. Was it mine or anyone on the grounds fault he was taken too soon? I dont think so. Regardless, that thought will never leave me.It is my burden to tell his story and honor him for what he gave us; his life so that others may live freely. Today will always be his day, my little bit of pain is the least I can endure to show my thanks to him. He truly was the best of us. Long live TPT9000.”

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