Airmen discover Sijan courage, dedication

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andrea Rhode
  • 115th Fighter Wing Public Affiars

Flames engulfed his aircraft. He was able to eject, but the violence of that ejection seat ripped off his helmet and his first aid kit. He went down into the jungle below. Limestone pillars jetted out of the triple canopy forest, making it impossible for a rescue.

Capt. Lance P. Sijan, Air Force F-4 Phantom pilot, spent the final days of his life dragging himself through the rough terrain of Laos. He survived the beatings and interrogations of his captors, never allowing his lips to spill any information he had sworn to secrecy. He fought for freedom until the day he took his last breath.

Sijan’s sister, Janine Sijan-Rozina, visited the 115th Fighter Wing on May 5 to share her brother’s story and provide inspiration for those in attendance.

“Janine has dedicated her life to ensuring that the memory of Lance and his incredible story is never forgotten,” said Joe Hollman, Wisconsin Air Force Academy Parents Association President. “She’s here today to share her story and Lance’s legacy with all of us.”

Sijan-Rozina shared the love she had for her brother and the love he had for his family and country.

“I have become very aware of the magnitude of this story,” Sijan-Rozina said. “It has become more than the loss for our family. It has become more than what Lance endured. What it is, is really a message to humanity about what happens when you make the impossible possible.”

Sijan-Rozina spent her time at the 115FW explaining the courageousness and dedication her brother had throughout his life. Sijan’s determination started young. When he was not accepted into the Air Force Academy right away, he headed to the Naval Academy Preparatory School to complete that program first, so he could later secure his acceptance into the Air Force Academy. When his grades were not what they needed to be, he quit playing football, his favorite sport, to focus on his studies. When his 220-pound body was battered, bruised, ripped apart and transformed into an 80-pound body, he continued to push forward.

“Now, if we end Lance’s story on Jan. 22, 1968 it’s tragic indeed, but if we don’t, if we understand the value of our lives in concentric circles and the ripples that we leave for others 50 years later, we can each light the path in our own way,” Rozina said.

She ensured those in attendance were aware they too have that same courageous spirit and dedication.

“Can you find the Lance Sijan inside of you,” Rozina said. “I believe you can. Now it’s up to you to believe it too.”

Rozina concluded her presentation looking straight into the eyes of those in attendance.

“Heroes are not born,” she said. “They are made through decisions throughout their lives in small, medium and large, to stay on the right side of right.”