Bryan Knight was five years old when he said goodbye to his father, Major Roy Knight, a US Air Force pilot, in January 1967 at Love Field airport in Dallas, Texas.
Major Knight was shot down four months later while on a combat mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and his remains were only recently recovered.
Fifty-two years later, Bryan Knight, now a captain with Southwest Airlines, piloted the plane that flew his father’s flag-draped casket back to Love Field.
“To be able to do this, to bring my father home, I’m very, very honored and very lucky,” Knight said in a video released by Southwest.
“How many people would ever have the opportunity to do this,” Knight said. “I really didn’t think it would ever happen.
“He’s really coming home,” he said. “And we’re going to have a place where we can honor him.”
Southwest baggage handlers and airport ground staff stood at attention on the tarmac while the casket was removed from the plane and entrusted to an Air Force honor guard.
Major Knight was 36 years old when his A-1E Skyraider plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed over northern Laos on May 19, 1967.
A joint US-Laotian team recovered remains from the crash site earlier this year and they were identifed as Major Knight’s through dental records, according to the Pentagon’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
Major Knight, who was posthumously promoted to colonel, is to be buried with military honors in Weatherford, Texas, on Saturday.