For an Overland Park family and their friends, this Memorial Day is marked with the freshest of wounds.
A pre-funeral cortege into the suburban city from Kansas City International Airport was an immediate remembrance of what the holiday was intended to be. The body of a soldier killed in Afghanistan was being brought home to his wife and baby daughter.
The young woman in black dress holding the baby was Abby Knapp. The child in the pink dress and headband is Abby's only child. Kinsley is 9 months old, practically a newborn when her father, Sergeant Mike Knapp left for the war at Thanksgiving.
A rocket attack ended Knapp's tour and his life.
Abby and Kinsley were waiting on the tarmac at the less-commercial end of the KCI runways. They were waiting for the jet carrying the coffin of their husband and father.
28 year old Sergeant Michael Knapp had been killed in a rocket attack on his artillery base in Asadabad May 18th.
Knapp's father-in-law, Tom Brassfield recalled that two days before death, Knapp connected with his family on Skype--"and Mike got to see Kinsley crawl and start to stand up. And we got the news that he was going to probably be able to come on leave in about 3 days. And then, that news comes."
Brassfield gives a pained sigh as he remembers, "that news."
Brassfield recalls mother and baby had just moved home from Knapp's army post in Washington State. He said he was grateful the family was together to support each other, "thank heavens they were there May 18th in the afternoon when the soldiers showed up at our driveway." To Brassfield, the soldiers' message needed no introduction. He knew their presence could, "only mean one thing. That they tell you, 'the Secretary of Defense is sorry to deliver the news that your soldier has died.' "
It was Knapp's first and only tour in Afghanistan. Earlier, as a National Guard member he had served in Kosovo and Iraq. Brassfield said the Shawnee Mission North High School graduate tried going back to school at one point, but seemed taken with the U.S. Army.
He became an artilleryman and the job was more dangerous than he let on to family.
Brassfield is glad for support from so many, leading to eventual placing of Knapp's ashes at Arlington National Cemetery.