Lance P. Sijan Memorial Plaza dedicated Friday

Posted at 6:58 AM, May 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-26 20:45:44-04

An area just south of the main entrance to General Mitchell International Airport was officially dedicated Friday as Captain Lance P. Sijan Memorial Plaza.

"I have been waiting to say this for a long time. Welcome to the Captain Lance P. Sijan Memorial Plaza," said Sijan's sister, Janine Sijan Rozina.

Sijan was born in Milwaukee, and was an Air Force captain in the Vietnam War. In 1967, he ejected from a disabled aircraft over North Vietnam.

It was six years later until anyone back home knew what happened to him, but fellow members of the U.S. military eventually told his story about how he survived in the jungle for more than a month with a fractured skull and mangled hand.

"He was so bad off that his guards apparently felt they didn't have much time to get the information they wanted out of him," said Guy Gruters, who was held captive with Sijan.

Sijan was held and tortured by the North Vietnamese army until his death in 1968. Eight years later, President Gerald Ford presented Sijan's family with the Medal of Honor.

"I tell everybody. He was the perfect soldier for the United States, he was a perfect soldier," Gruters said.

Hundreds of people, including Milwaukee's Mayor Tom Barrett, and military officials joined the celebration Friday. The presentation included a letter from U.S. Sen. John McCain, who was also taken as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

"He was gone before I heard of him, but the men who lived with him told me his story," McCain said.

Get more information about the 10:45 a.m. dedication ceremony here.