Fact Check: The President Did NOT Refuse To Pay To Fly Remains Of Sgt. Ryan Knauss To Arlington Cemetery

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: The President Did NOT Refuse To Pay To Fly Remains Of Sgt. Ryan Knauss To Arlington Cemetery Not Protocol

Did the president of the United States refuse to pay to fly the body of Sgt. Ryan Knauss, killed in the August 2021 Kabul airport bombing, to Arlington National Cemetery? No, that's not true: The president is not responsible for decisions regarding the burial of soldiers. "That is not within the president's purview," says the director of the civilian funeral home that handled arrangements in Knauss' hometown. Military protocol provides for the transport of the remains of a soldier killed on duty overseas to a destination the family chooses after the body is returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The body of Army Staff Sgt. Knauss was transported to a funeral home in his hometown in Tennessee for a memorial service that was held on September 11, 2021.

The funeral home director told Lead Stories that the funeral home would be providing transportation costs for the 484-mile trip to Arlington Cemetery, where Knauss will be buried, at no charge to the family. After Lead Stories contacted the Department of Defense, an Army spokesperson said, "Army senior leaders will ensure transportation arrangements for SSG Knauss will be made in coordination with his family. There will be no unreimbursed costs to them."

The claim appeared as a post (archived here) where it was published on Facebook on September 12, 2021. It opened:

I found out today that the president of the United States will not pay to fly Sgt. Ryan Knauss to Arlington national cemetery.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Sep 13 19:55:19 2021 UTC)

The entire post read:

I found out today that the president of the United States will not pay to fly Sgt. Ryan Knauss to Arlington national cemetery. Mynatt's Funeral home will be taking Ryan by a hearse at no charge and that our Knox County Police Department will be escorting Ryan. I will be going by Mynatt's funeral home tomorrow to give them money for gas to take Ryan."

Knauss, 23, was among 13 American service members killed in the August 26, 2021, bombing at Kabul airport. His online obituary stated:

Corryton - Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss age 23 of Fort Bragg, N.C. formerly of Corryton, Tn was the last American Servicemember to die in the 20 year war in Afghanistan on Thursday, August 26, 2021. He grew up in Corryton, Tn and was a 2016 graduate of Gibbs High School. From high school, Ryan joined the U. S. Army, and served as a Scout in the 82nd Airborne Division, and also served as a psychological operations NCO in the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion.

"It is within the protocol of the military to transport him to one destination," Robert Rutherford, the Mynatt Funeral Home director in Knoxville, Tennessee, who handled Knauss' funeral and memorial service, told Lead Stories via telephone on September 13, 2021. "That is not within the president's purview. They will bring him to one destination. They have fulfilled that. It is the family's responsibility for anything beyond that."

Regarding his funeral home's role, Rutherford added, "Any services that have been provided have been at no charge. It is the right thing to do."

"The government pays for transportation to the initial location selected by the family and subsequent transportation on a reimbursable basis to national cemeteries for burial," Lt. Col. Gabriel J. Ramirez, Media Relations Division, Office of the Chief of Public Affairs (OCPA) told Lead Stories via email on September 13, 2021. His email to Lead Stories said, "There will be no unreimbursed costs to (Knauss's family)."

A public memorial service was held for Knauss at the high school he attended in Tennessee on September 11, 2021, KNOX News reported. Knauss will be transported to a funeral home in Arlington per laws governing funeral homes, Rutherford said.

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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