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Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss protects East Tennesseans even after death

East Tennessee veteran Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss, who died trying to save people during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, may now be able to protect people at home.
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 11:10 PM EST
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CORRYTON, Tenn. (WVLT) - East Tennessee veteran Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss who died trying to save people during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, may now be able to protect people at home.

A pedestrian bridge is set to be built and named after Knauss at his alma mater, Gibbs High School.

People from the high school often go across Tazewell Pike to the Elementary school either to drop off students, for tutoring, or game day parking.

“We feel overwhelmed. We feel thankful. We feel joyful. And we feel honored,” said Paula Knauss Selph, Ryan’s mom.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, U.S. Representative Tim Burchett, and the Knauss family along with other leaders broke ground in front of the high school, spoke about Knauss and the bridge and watched as the JROTC and school choir performed.

A Knox County Commissioner, Richie Beeler, had a cousin get hit by a vehicle when crossing the road, just a few years ago.

“He survived fortunately, but really raised awareness for the need for a pedestrian bridge to cross this highway safely,” said Beeler, who oversees the Gibbs district.

“Some men and women like Ryan Knauss have paid with their lives. We can never fully repay the debt that we owe them. Certainly this bridge will not replace Ryan in the hearts of his family,” said Glenn Jacobs, Knox County Mayor.

These leaders chose to name it after Knauss.

“There was no question this community really wanted to rally around Ryan and his family and what he had done for our country,” Beeler said.

The project is expected to be wheelchair accessible and begin by the end of 2022.

“He made history with not even trying,” said Knauss Selph.

She and Beeler said Ryan volunteered for the mission that cost him his life.

“It was a true act of heroism,” said Beeler.

“Ryan was the last soldier that is considered to be killed in that 20 year war. Ryan was three years old when it started,” said his mom. “And Ryan lived out history to his last breath, we just wish we’d had him home.”

He made a difference saving lives in Afghanistan and hopefully those back home.

“You give Ryan a chance, he would protect your kids on this bridge,” said Knauss Selph through tears. “And we are grateful that he protected those afar and he would do the same now if he could.”

The project could cost up to $3 million.

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