Currently the Bartow County School System's chief of campus police, Knowles enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1986 to be a member of the Army Band. Joining the Army National Guard in the early 1990s, the Cartersville resident converted over to the Air National Guard in 1999, where he is a first sergeant and serves as a bandsman. In 2008, he was deployed to Qatar for about five months.
"Our mission is patriotism to the public and troop morale to the guys in the field," Knowles said. "This will be the first Memorial Day where I haven't been playing at a ceremony. I'll be speaking. So that's kind of humbling.
"But [since the mid-1980s] I've done all kinds of Memorial Day parades, Veterans Day parades, Fourth of July parades, any military functions -- welcome home ceremonies or departure ceremonies for guys going overseas [and change of command ceremonies]. So just every kind of military ceremony that you can think of, I've been involved in it."
Since 1986, Knowles said he has witnessed many memorable scenes, two of which were at departure and welcome home ceremonies.
"When I was active duty Army, we were doing a departure ceremony for the 190th MP Company out of Kennesaw," he said. "That was the first guys we did a ceremony for to go over during Desert Storm, the first Gulf War. And as we played the National Anthem, I remember looking around and seeing the faces and it had a whole different meaning at that point because you didn't know if any of these guys were going to be coming home.
"So that still sticks in my [mind]. ... The flip side of that is the first welcome home ceremony we did. It was actually an activity duty company. ... The plan was these guys were coming into the gym there at the base and the family was supposed to stay in the bleachers and they were going to have a little ceremony. First the commanders were going to speak and then they were going to release them to their families. And as soon as those guys came in the door, there was a little girl about 4 years old that ran out to her daddy. And that was pretty much it."
As in past years, the local Legionnaires encourage the public to attend the service at their post on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Along with Knowles' presentation, the program also -- in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War -- will highlight the veterans of that period.
"The veterans we pause to remember on Memorial Day are the patriots who left their homes and families when their country called," Post Commander Dale Cockrill stated in a news release. "They gave their last full measure of devotion in the defense of our freedom. We are committed to keeping the memory of their sacrifice alive for generations to come."
Also open to the public on Monday, the Vietnam Veterans of Bartow County's candlelight service will take place in front of the veterans memorial -- on the grounds of the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center, 135 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville.
"I think the most touching [part of the service] for me is that when we light those candles, we know that they represent somebody that defended our country and gave the absolute most that you can give for the country," said Bob Poston, commander of the Vietnam Veterans of Bartow County. "I keep recalling that [saying] -- freedom is not free, a vet paid for it. And every time we light a candle, we know somebody paid the full price."
After the 8 p.m. candlelight ceremony, the public will be able to view a completed portion of the brick Walk of Honor.
Coordinated by the Vietnam Veterans of Bartow County, the brick offering runs parallel to the government building's sidewalk and highlights all veterans, not limited to Bartow County residents.
For $50, individuals can take part in this memorial, purchasing a brick inscribed with three lines of information: the military personnel's name; rank and branch; and years and location of service. In addition to Monday's program, forms will be available at www.lzhome.org or the Vietnam Veterans of Bartow County's office, 320 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville. At least 1,000 bricks still are available.
For more information about the evening observance or the Walk of Honor, individuals can call Poston at 678-986-1702.