Scholarship fund benefits military members and families while honoring late Gibbs grad

The Afghan-13 SSG Ryan Christian Knauss Memorial Scholarship honors the 13 service members killed in Afghanistan while benefitting veterans and current service members.
Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 4:45 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - It all started with a tweet to honor the men and women killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in 2021.

“To start this I just wanted to give back to our service members, our military community because they do so much for us,” said Will McNeeley who started the Afghan 13-SSG Ryan Christian Knauss Memorial Scholarship.

McNeeley is the child, grandchild, and nephew of veterans who served in the United States Military.

McNeeley, like many, was affected by the deaths of the 13 men and women, including Gibbs High School Graduate Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss.

“What started off as a simple tweet turned into something beautiful,” said McNeeley.

The fund was created one year ago on Veterans Day in 2021, and in 360 days, it’s built more than $15,000.

When it hits $25,000, the Haslam family will match the scholarship dollar for dollar.

The help is aimed at active duty service members, veterans, their families, and anyone transferring from a service academy working for a graduate degree from the Haslam School of Business at the University of Tennessee.

”You know the folks that are coming out of the military, sometimes they don’t know what to do, but with a business graduate degree, it sets up so many avenues for them,” said McNeeley.

To honor the one-year anniversary and continue to grow the fund, the Volunteer Club, an NIL Collective, is giving 20% of the proceeds it makes from people joining, through Veterans Day.

Athletes at the university are now putting their faces behind the push to garner donations for the fund that benefits military members.

”How they work, their discipline, just everything, for protecting our country, so grateful for them every time I can represent I’ll do it,” said Offensive Lineman Jerome Carvin.

McNeeley has no plans of stopping the momentum the scholarship has going now, hoping to reach the $25,000 goal and never look back.