Remembering Sijan

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Codie Collins
  • 460 Space Wing Public Affairs

Team Buckley came together to remember Capt. Lance Sijan at a viewing of a documentary of his life at the Leadership Development Center March 27, 2019.

Sijan died January 22, 1968, and was the first Air Force Academy graduate to receive the Medal of Honor. He lived the code of conduct to his last breath and left a legacy of love and leadership for Airmen today to follow.

Ejected from his fighter jet over Laos in 1967, Sijan spent 46 days evading capture from the Viet Cong. Sijan suffered a fractured skull, a mangled right hand, and a compound fracture of the left leg, but managed to travel three miles by dragging himself across the jungle, passing in and out of consciousness, in hopes he would find safety.

Despite his efforts, he was captured by the Viet Cong on Christmas Day, 1967. He was 80 pounds and close to death, but he was a million miles away from giving up. Lance believed in freedom and his fellow Airmen. Though tortured and in extreme poor health, Sijan did not release any information to his captors.

“He never gave up on the idea of escape in all the days they were together” said Retired Col Bob Craner, five year prisoner of war and cellmate of Sijan. “In fact, that was one of the first things he mentioned when we first went into his cell at Vinh: ‘How the hell are we going to get out of here? Have you guys figured out how we’re going to take care of these people? Do you think we can steal one of their guns?’”

Sijan died while in a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp and was posthumously presented the Medal of Honor for heroism. Lance’s body, along with the headstone used to mark his grave in North Vietnam, was returned to the United States in 1974 for interment in Milwaukee.

 “The man represented something,” said Sylvester Sijan, father of Lance. “The old cliché that he was a hero and represented guts and determination is true. That’s what he really represented. How much of that was really Lance? What he is, what he did, the facts are there.”