Lance Sijan

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Captain Lance P. Sijan, USAF, Medal of Honor


Dear Family and Friends,
I would like to share the transcript of a talk with you. It will help you better appreciate what our veterans have done, and the reason for Memorial Day.
 
The talk was given at the request of Janine Sijan Rozina this past Friday, as part of the Lance Sijan Memorial Dedication Ceremony in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 
 
This talk is about a Medal of Honor winner I was privileged to be with when I was a POW in Vietnam. Our testimony, that is Bob Craner’s and mine, resulted in Lance receiving the Medal of Honor. There was also a book written about Lance titled “Into The Mouth of the Cat” based on our interviews with the author, Malcolm McConnell. This book became a Reader's Digest book club selection in May, 1984. This issue of the Reader's Digest included a 20 page article about this hero. 
 
I am sharing the talk in an attempt to help everyone celebrate our national holiday tomorrow, and also inform everyone of the heroic sacrifice of Lance Sijan for you and me. He gave up his life so we could live in a free country as many other brave soldiers have done. 
 
There is also a link of the talk being given at the very end of the text below. However, when the talk was presented, it had to be cut short by about 1/3 to stick to the schedule for the F-16 flyover and skydive. Hence, I recommend you read the talk first before you choose to view the event. 
 
Have a great holiday!
 
God bless,
Guy & Sandy
LANCE SIJAN: A LEGEND OF HEROIC LOVE OF AMERICA
 
Talk given on May 26th, 2017, at the Captain Lance P. Sijan Memorial Plaza Dedication Ceremony – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
 
Greetings, everyone; my name is Guy Gruters. I graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1964, a year earlier than Lance did. However, I was in the same squadron with Lance and knew him well while at the Academy. 
 
After graduation, I obtained a Master’s degree at Purdue University, then attended Air Force pilot and fighter pilot training. I then volunteered for Vietnam service only. 
 
After almost a year's tour, one day while flying an F-100 fighter over North Vietnam, I was shot out of the air and landed in enemy territory. I was quickly captured and brought to a small village, then to a jungle bamboo holding prison for the trip north to the Hanoi Hilton. It was in this jungle prison I met Lance again.
 
Lance had been downed 6 weeks before me. He had not been rescued, but instead had evaded capture by the enemy by remaining out of sight in the jungle. He was wounded and emaciated, having had nothing to eat and only the water found in the jungle for all those weeks. 
 
When I first saw Lance again in the jungle bamboo prison, I did not recognize him, but he recognized me. I did not recognize him because he had lost so much weight and was covered with infections and sores. 
 
I will never forget that moment. Major Bob Craner, the pilot I had been shot down with, and I were told by the guards to care for the new prisoner in another cell. We both attempted to help this very injured man to his feet. When we picked him up, Lance said to me, “Aren't you Guy Gruters?” and I said, “Yes, I am, who are you?” and Lance said, “I am Lance Sijan.”
 
My heart stopped, my eyes filled with tears. 
 
I could not believe what had happened to Lance’s body. He was so thin and emaciated I did not recognize him at all. We did our best to care for him, but the guards apparently felt Lance would die soon. Thus, they viciously beat and tortured him in an attempt to obtain information quickly, information that would aid them in the war they were waging against the Americans and its free allies in South Vietnam. 
 
Lance would only tell the interrogators his name, rank, service number and date of birth. They kept pounding and kicking him in the beatings given many times each day. From our cells, hearing every blow and resulting scream, we tried to stop them by yelling and screaming also to divert their attention, but this did no good. Lance would not budge. He refused to jeopardize his comrades by telling the enemy any information at all. We tried to care for him over the next weeks to keep him alive, whenever we could get to him. 
 
It was heartbreaking for me personally, because I knew Lance at the Academy. I remember how healthy and strong he was, he was on the football team, and now his body was in terrible shape. 
 
I asked him why he had so many infected sores, hundreds of them. He told me he had to crawl through the jungle by pulling himself along with his hands, since he had a broken leg with the bone sticking out, then after a few days and nights he would fall asleep from exhaustion. When he woke up, there were rats all over him chewing on his flesh and at the same time snakes after the rats. 
 
He told us what he had gone through since his plane had been destroyed by a malfunctioning bomb and blown out of the sky. I listened in awe to the details and how he was finally discovered in an unconscious condition on a small jungle trail. I asked Lance if he had made his peace with God and he said he had. We both knew his days were numbered.
 
Lance was a great example for the two of us, Major Bob Craner and I, and the other POWs we told his story to. Lance had great resolve to obey orders. His middle name was obedience. We were under the standing orders of the American Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct, which I will now read and then describe how Lance obeyed the code in its entirety: 
 
Article 1: I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense. 
 
Lance gave his life in their defense.
 
Article 2: I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender my men while they still have the means to resist.
 
He was found while unconscious, 46 days after being downed. Lance did not surrender of his own free will.
 
Article 3: If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
 
According to unsolicited testimony to me by a North Vietnamese officer, Lance did manage to escape by knocking out a guard when he was all alone with him even though he was so seriously injured. He did not stop trying to escape and to convince us of its possibility, even in his deteriorated condition and even from the high security prison of the Hanoi Hilton we finally ended up in.
 
As far as parole or special favors from the enemy, it is inconceivable that Lance would ever even consider accepting something like that.
 
Article 4: If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
 
Lance was a perfect companion in prison camp. He made it possible for Major Craner and myself to better resist interrogation. He was also obedient to Major Craner, the senior officer in our cell.
 
Article 5: When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
 
Lance did this perfectly, despite unbelievable pain and suffering. The great French general, Napoleon, was famous in military studies for his ability to effectively motivate and select men for special units. Napoleon said that “the first quality of a soldier is the ability to endure hardship.” If this is true, and it is tough to find a better judge than Napoleon, then Lance is one of the greatest soldiers in all of history.
 
Article 6: I will never forget that I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.
 
Like Job in the Bible, like Jesus on the cross, Lance trusted God even though he was given a bed of thorns, not a wreath of flowers. Lance never complained of the hardships and sufferings presented to him. He kept the faith. He died a peaceful man. He was a soldier to the very end and an example for all time.
 
 
While at the Academy, all cadets were required to memorize the American Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct and also called to recite it in front of others often. 
 
Most don't realize the importance of the American Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct, but we as POWs certainly did. The code gave us direction and purpose from capture to freedom. As a prisoner, it helped us to be motivated to resist and fight the enemy in a different way than we had been fighting him with fighter planes, bullets and bombs. 
 
Our war now was a mental and spiritual one. We had to overcome the torments and torture we received, overlooking the brutality of the guards, who were just soldiers doing the job assigned to them, keep our faith in God and our country and be positive and hopeful about the future, despite living a life of terror each day without any apparent hope or apparent end in sight. 
 
Many of our citizens here in the USA have been spared the experience and cannot imagine the horror of war, much less how cruel and devastating it is to be treated worse than an animal, treated as a criminal and one who is an enemy by men who would rather kill you than keep you alive. 
 
But this is exactly how Lance spent the days of his last month on this earth.
 
We witnessed his great mental and moral strength, his commitment and his determination to resist the enemy and obey the orders to not give more than name, rank, service number and date of birth. Bob Craner and I were amazed at Lance’s ability in his horrific condition to obey the standing orders of the American Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct through all the torture and pain.
 
We should all reflect why Lance acted the way he did, that is, obey orders under such conditions. Lance was a soldier and an American fighting man called to fight in a war he believed in, a war to defend America and keep it free. 
 
If you remember the times we were living in back then, you can recall the Russians and Chinese and many other peoples had become communist. The Russians were committed to conquering the world and it was actually occurring as the years went by. 
 
The communist revolution started in 1917 in Russia and it was spreading throughout the globe by their strategy of “Wars of National Liberation,” like in Vietnam. America and several other free countries had sent soldiers to Vietnam to fight the communist thrust there as a part of what was also known as the “Cold War” all over the world.
 
Lance was a soldier in this war to keep America free. He was a soldier and knew that if the communists were not stopped, they would one day invade America, kill men women and children and establish a communist regime in the USA. This was the stated objective of the communists, and had been for decades. 
 
The communists did not believe in freedom of press nor freedom of religion. The communists did not permit that people were allowed to believe in God. If you conflicted the government, you were killed or placed to live on a garbage dump with your wife and children or enslaved in a labor camp. 
 
I saw how the communists ruled in North Vietnam. I lived in a communist country for over five years. I returned to America to freedom, the freedom I did not realize the value of until it was taken from me. 
 
Lance died, as did many other strong young men, for one reason and one reason only. It was to keep America free. This is what our country stands for. A country that is free. A country that values freedom and is willing to fight for freedom and in Lance’s case even giving up one's life so that others can live in freedom. 
 
We must all reflect often when we see a picture of Lance or when we drive by his F-4 fighter plane memorial, that we live in a free country because of Lance giving up his life along with many others that have loved this country. These other soldiers, not perhaps in such a heroic way as Lance did, still gave up their lives or perhaps suffered wounds that lasted a lifetime, or risked their lives fighting in wars to keep America free.
 
God, I believe, tests all of us in this life. God tests us to see how great a lover we are. Daily we have to sacrifice to love others whom we live with and care for. Daily we have to give, share and help others. 
 
A war creates thousands of situations in which soldiers are tested to see if they will love. The greatest love a man or woman can show or demonstrate is to give up his or her life for another. Lance demonstrated this great love. He passed the ultimate test. 
 
Lance, perhaps, would be alive right now if he would have told the enemy what they wanted to know. But he refused to do this. Instead, he fought the enemy in a knowing attempt to love his country by protecting it, by not giving the enemy the information they wanted to know. 
 
Lance was, therefore, a great lover of you and me. 
 
Would you do this for our country? Would you knowingly suffer and give up your life for the ones you love? How about for people you did not even know, that is, your fellow Americans? 
 
Let us all learn from Lance’s great example of heroic love. Because this is what it was, the greatest love a person can show for another. I know of no other word that describes it better than “heroic.” 
 
Our country awards the Medal of Honor to heroes of love. These are those who gave up their life or risked it in a great way for you and for me so we can live daily in a free country and make free choices, so we can worship God, so we can travel where we wish to, so we can go to school where we desire to, so we can work in the job we wish to work in. 
 
This is a free land!
This is a free country!
This is what this means!
We can be united with our American brothers and sisters in a tremendous spirit of freedom! Now, I would like to ask you to give the American next to you a handshake celebrating our freedom!
Let us also now join together to thank God for our soldiers living and dead, for this freedom, the freedom only given to us and preserved for us by their sacrifices:
 
Dear Heavenly Father, today we join here to dedicate a memorial to Lance Sijan. This memorial will be here and last for centuries. It is a memorial to remind us of Lance’s heroic love of country, of his self-sacrifice, of giving his very life to provide us with a freedom of living and thinking and believing as we will and doing as we choose to do.
Father, thank you for filling Lance with your love, the love he demonstrated by giving up his life for each of us. Please continue to bless our country with young men and women willing to risk their lives and even knowingly give up their lives so that our country remains free, so that our children can worship in freedom, live in freedom and be free all the days of their life.
 
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your love and in giving this country Lance Sijan as a beacon of your love.
 
In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.
This is a link to the entire Lance Sijan Memorial Ceremony May 26th Memorial Day Weekend, Milwaukee, WI.
http://www.wtmj.com/features/wtmj-cares-gene/wtmj-cares-lance-sijan-memorial-dedication
  
 
 
  
Dear Family and Friends,

      

I would like to share the transcript of a talk with you. It will help you better appreciate what our veterans have done, and the reason for Memorial Day. The talk was given at the request of Janine Sijan Rozina this past Friday, as part of the Lance Sijan Memorial Dedication Ceremony in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  This talk is about a Medal of Honor winner I was privileged to be with when I was a POW in Vietnam. Our testimony, that is Bob Craner’s and mine, resulted in Lance receiving the Medal of Honor. There was also a book written about Lance titled “Into The Mouth of the Cat” based on our interviews with the author, Malcolm McConnell. This book became a Reader's Digest book club selection in May, 1984. This issue of the Reader's Digest included a 20 page article about this hero.  

I am sharing the talk in an attempt to help everyone celebrate our national holiday tomorrow, and also inform everyone of the heroic sacrifice of Lance Sijan for you and me. He gave up his life so we could live in a free country as many other brave soldiers have done.  There is also a link of the talk being given at the very end of the text below. However, when the talk was presented, it had to be cut short by about 1/3 to stick to the schedule for the F-16 flyover and skydive. Hence, I recommend you read the talk first before you choose to view the event.  Have a great holiday! 

God bless,

Guy & Sandy

LANCE SIJAN: A LEGEND OF HEROIC LOVE OF AMERICA 

Talk given on May 26th, 2017, at the Captain Lance P. Sijan Memorial Plaza Dedication Ceremony – Milwaukee, Wisconsin 

   

Greetings, everyone; my name is Guy Gruters. I graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1964, a year earlier than Lance did. However, I was in the same squadron with Lance and knew him well while at the Academy.  After graduation, I obtained a Master’s degree at Purdue University, then attended Air Force pilot and fighter pilot training. I then volunteered for Vietnam service only.  After almost a year's tour, one day while flying an F-100 fighter over North Vietnam, I was shot out of the air and landed in enemy territory. I was quickly captured and brought to a small village, then to a jungle bamboo holding prison for the trip north to the Hanoi Hilton. 

   

It was in this jungle prison I met Lance again. Lance had been downed 6 weeks before me. He had not been rescued, but instead had evaded capture by the enemy by remaining out of sight in the jungle. He was wounded and emaciated, having had nothing to eat and only the water found in the jungle for all those weeks.  

   

When I first saw Lance again in the jungle bamboo prison, I did not recognize him, but he recognized me. I did not recognize him because he had lost so much weight and was covered with infections and sores.  I will never forget that moment. 

   

Major Bob Craner, the pilot I had been shot down with, and I were told by the guards to care for the new prisoner in another cell. We both attempted to help this very injured man to his feet. When we picked him up, Lance said to me, “Aren't you Guy Gruters?” and I said, “Yes, I am, who are you?” and Lance said, “I am Lance Sijan.” 

   

My heart stopped, my eyes filled with tears.  

    

I could not believe what had happened to Lance’s body. He was so thin and emaciated I did not recognize him at all. We did our best to care for him, but the guards apparently felt Lance would die soon. Thus, they viciously beat and tortured him in an attempt to obtain information quickly, information that would aid them in the war they were waging against the Americans and its free allies in South Vietnam.  

    

Lance would only tell the interrogators his name, rank, service number and date of birth. They kept pounding and kicking him in the beatings given many times each day. From our cells, hearing every blow and resulting scream, we tried to stop them by yelling and screaming also to divert their attention, but this did no good. Lance would not budge. He refused to jeopardize his comrades by telling the enemy any information at all. 

   

We tried to care for him over the next weeks to keep him alive, whenever we could get to him.  It was heartbreaking for me personally, because I knew Lance at the Academy. I remember how healthy and strong he was, he was on the football team, and now his body was in terrible shape.  

    

I asked him why he had so many infected sores, hundreds of them. He told me he had to crawl through the jungle by pulling himself along with his hands, since he had a broken leg with the bone sticking out, then after a few days and nights he would fall asleep from exhaustion. When he woke up, there were rats all over him chewing on his flesh and at the same time snakes after the rats.  

   

He told us what he had gone through since his plane had been destroyed by a malfunctioning bomb and blown out of the sky. I listened in awe to the details and how he was finally discovered in an unconscious condition on a small jungle trail. I asked Lance if he had made his peace with God and he said he had. We both knew his days were numbered. 

    

Lance was a great example for the two of us, Major Bob Craner and I, and the other POWs we told his story to. Lance had great resolve to obey orders. His middle name was obedience. We were under the standing orders of the American Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct, which I will now read and then describe how Lance obeyed the code in its entirety:  

    

Article 1: I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.   

    

Lance gave his life in their defense. 

    

Article 2: I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender my men while they still have the means to resist. 

   

He was found while unconscious, 46 days after being downed. Lance did not surrender of his own free will. 

    

Article 3: If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy. 

    

According to unsolicited testimony to me by a North Vietnamese officer, Lance did manage to escape by knocking out a guard when he was all alone with him even though he was so seriously injured. He did not stop trying to escape and to convince us of its possibility, even in his deteriorated condition and even from the high security prison of the Hanoi Hilton we finally ended up in. As far as parole or special favors from the enemy, it is inconceivable that Lance would ever even consider accepting something like that.  

   

Article 4: If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way. 

   

Lance was a perfect companion in prison camp. He made it possible for Major Craner and myself to better resist interrogation. He was also obedient to Major Craner, the senior officer in our cell. 

    

Article 5: When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause. 

    

Lance did this perfectly, despite unbelievable pain and suffering. The great French general, Napoleon, was famous in military studies for his ability to effectively motivate and select men for special units. Napoleon said that “the first quality of a soldier is the ability to endure hardship.” If this is true, and it is tough to find a better judge than Napoleon, then Lance is one of the greatest soldiers in all of history. 

    

Article 6: I will never forget that I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America. 

    

Like Job in the Bible, like Jesus on the cross, Lance trusted God even though he was given a bed of thorns, not a wreath of flowers. Lance never complained of the hardships and sufferings presented to him. He kept the faith. He died a peaceful man. He was a soldier to the very end and an example for all time.  

   

While at the Academy, all cadets were required to memorize the American Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct and also called to recite it in front of others often.  Most don't realize the importance of the American Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct, but we as POWs certainly did. The code gave us direction and purpose from capture to freedom. As a prisoner, it helped us to be motivated to resist and fight the enemy in a different way than we had been fighting him with fighter planes, bullets and bombs.  

    

Our war now was a mental and spiritual one. We had to overcome the torments and torture we received, overlooking the brutality of the guards, who were just soldiers doing the job assigned to them, keep our faith in God and our country and be positive and hopeful about the future, despite living a life of terror each day without any apparent hope or apparent end in sight.  

   

Many of our citizens here in the USA have been spared the experience and cannot imagine the horror of war, much less how cruel and devastating it is to be treated worse than an animal, treated as a criminal and one who is an enemy by men who would rather kill you than keep you alive.  

   

But this is exactly how Lance spent the days of his last month on this earth. 

   

We witnessed his great mental and moral strength, his commitment and his determination to resist the enemy and obey the orders to not give more than name, rank, service number and date of birth. 

   

Bob Craner and I were amazed at Lance’s ability in his horrific condition to obey the standing orders of the American Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct through all the torture and pain. 

   

We should all reflect why Lance acted the way he did, that is, obey orders under such conditions. Lance was a soldier and an American fighting man called to fight in a war he believed in, a war to defend America and keep it free.  

   

If you remember the times we were living in back then, you can recall the Russians and Chinese and many other peoples had become communist. The Russians were committed to conquering the world and it was actually occurring as the years went by.  The communist revolution started in 1917 in Russia and it was spreading throughout the globe by their strategy of “Wars of National Liberation,” like in Vietnam. America and several other free countries had sent soldiers to Vietnam to fight the communist thrust there as a part of what was also known as the “Cold War” all over the world. 

   

Lance was a soldier in this war to keep America free. He was a soldier and knew that if the communists were not stopped, they would one day invade America, kill men women and children and establish a communist regime in the USA. This was the stated objective of the communists, and had been for decades.  

    

The communists did not believe in freedom of press nor freedom of religion. The communists did not permit that people were allowed to believe in God. If you conflicted the government, you were killed or placed to live on a garbage dump with your wife and children or enslaved in a labor camp.  

   

I saw how the communists ruled in North Vietnam. I lived in a communist country for over five years. I returned to America to freedom, the freedom I did not realize the value of until it was taken from me.  

   

Lance died, as did many other strong young men, for one reason and one reason only. It was to keep America free. This is what our country stands for. A country that is free. A country that values freedom and is willing to fight for freedom and in Lance’s case even giving up one's life so that others can live in freedom.  

    

We must all reflect often when we see a picture of Lance or when we drive by his F-4 fighter plane memorial, that we live in a free country because of Lance giving up his life along with many others that have loved this country. These other soldiers, not perhaps in such a heroic way as Lance did, still gave up their lives or perhaps suffered wounds that lasted a lifetime, or risked their lives fighting in wars to keep America free. 

   

God, I believe, tests all of us in this life. God tests us to see how great a lover we are. Daily we have to sacrifice to love others whom we live with and care for. Daily we have to give, share and help others.  

    

A war creates thousands of situations in which soldiers are tested to see if they will love. The greatest love a man or woman can show or demonstrate is to give up his or her life for another. Lance demonstrated this great love. He passed the ultimate test.  

   

Lance, perhaps, would be alive right now if he would have told the enemy what they wanted to know. But he refused to do this. Instead, he fought the enemy in a knowing attempt to love his country by protecting it, by not giving the enemy the information they wanted to know.  

   

Lance was, therefore, a great lover of you and me.  

   

Would you do this for our country? Would you knowingly suffer and give up your life for the ones you love? How about for people you did not even know, that is, your fellow Americans?  

   

Let us all learn from Lance’s great example of heroic love. Because this is what it was, the greatest love a person can show for another. I know of no other word that describes it better than “heroic.”  

   

Our country awards the Medal of Honor to heroes of love. These are those who gave up their life or risked it in a great way for you and for me so we can live daily in a free country and make free choices, so we can worship God, so we can travel where we wish to, so we can go to school where we desire to, so we can work in the job we wish to work in.  This is a free land! This is a free country! This is what this means!

    

We can be united with our American brothers and sisters in a tremendous spirit of freedom! Now, I would like to ask you to give the American next to you a handshake celebrating our freedom!

   

Let us also now join together to thank God for our soldiers living and dead, for this freedom, the freedom only given to us and preserved for us by their sacrifices: 

   

Dear Heavenly Father, today we join here to dedicate a memorial to Lance Sijan. This memorial will be here and last for centuries. It is a memorial to remind us of Lance’s heroic love of country, of his self-sacrifice, of giving his very life to provide us with a freedom of living and thinking and believing as we will and doing as we choose to do.
    


Father, thank you for filling Lance with your love, the love he demonstrated by giving up his life for each of us. Please continue to bless our country with young men and women willing to risk their lives and even knowingly give up their lives so that our country remains free, so that our children can worship in freedom, live in freedom and be free all the days of their life. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your love and in giving this country Lance Sijan as a beacon of your love. 

    

In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

   

This is a link to the entire Lance Sijan Memorial Ceremony May 26th Memorial Day Weekend, Milwaukee, WI.

    

http://www.wtmj.com/features/wtmj-cares-gene/wtmj-cares-lance-sijan-memorial-dedication