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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

The final mission of Lt. Lance Sijan of Milwaukee: November 9, 1967

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Soldiers serve.

Some go to war.

Even if only one doesn't come home, it's one too many.

We salute all veterans this month, including those who paid the ultimate price to preserve out way of life, even in wars that weren't deemed popular at the time.

Lance Sijan was born and raised in Milwaukee, graduated from Bay View High School before attending the Air Force Academy in the mid 60's.  He came out a second lieutenant and went to Vietnam as a fighter pilot at the height of the war, stationed in Da Nang. 

Sijan had flown some 50 plus missions when he took off for what would be his final one on November 9, 1967.


Sijan's jet would crash that day on a North Vietnamese hillside, and he'd spend more than a month in a jungle--he waved off rescue crews who'd come to save him during a fire fight, not wanting others to be in harm's way.   He would survive on morning dew water and little else, struggling through debilitating injuries to elude capture for some 40+ days before the North Vietnamese eventually took him into custody.  Despite his emaciated condition, he never stopped trying to escape.   Despite torture and beatings, he never gave up anything other than his name, rank and serial number.   Despite his misery, fellow POW's never heard him complain.  

Sijan died in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prisoner of war camp a few weeks after his capture.   His parents back in Milwaukee wouldn't learn of his fate for years.   His body was returned in the mid 70's, and the military promoted him to captain.  His fellow POW's, the ones who witnessed Sijan's agony and bravery, recommended him posthumously for the Medal of Honor, which his parents received from President Ford in 1976. 

There is a park in Bay View that bears Captain Sijan's name.   The high school has a scholarship in his honor.  There's a dorm back at the Air Force Academy named after him, and the cadets who live there are required to know its namesake's story.

I thought you should, too.

Saying "thanks" is hardly enough when it comes to expressing a nation's gratitude to those who served, much less to those who lost sons, daughters, relatives and friends in battle.   We who exercise the freedom they fought to preserve are obligated, rightfully so, to make sure their stories are told and their sacrifice is forever remembered.

Soldiers serve.

Some go to war.

Even if only one doesn't come home, it's one too many.

Captain Sijan didn't.  This Veterans Day, on the 45th anniversary of his final mission, let us  remember his dedication and sacrifice, along with that of so many others who didn't come home, whose stories never get told.  Let's salute those who served, as well as those who now wear the uniform plus those who love them back at home.

Thanks is, indeed, hardly enough.




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