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Capt. Lance P. Sijan

Capt. Lance P. Sijan, a 1965 graduate of the Air Force Academy, is the only Academy graduate to receive the Medal of Honor. Sijan was cited for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action in Southeast Asia at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty.

The nation's highest decoration was presented posthumously to ijan's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Sylvester Sijan, by President Gerald R. Ford March 4, 1976.

While on a flight over North Vietnam Nov. 9, 1967, Sijan ejected from his disabled aircraft and successfully evaded capture for more than six weeks. During this time, he was seriously injured and suffered shock and extreme weight loss due to lack of food.

According to the citation accompanying his Medal of Honor, Sijan was captured by North Vietnamese soldiers and taken to a holding point for subsequent transfer to a POW camp. In his emaciated and crippled condition, he overpowered a guard and crawled into the jungle only to be captured several hours later.

Sijan was later transferred to another prison camp and kept in solitary confinement and interrogated at length. During these interrogations, he was tortured but refused to divulge any information. Sijan lapsed into delirium and was placed in the care of another prisoner. During intermittent periods of consciousness until his death, he never complained of his physical condition but did speak of escape plans.

After contracting pneumonia, Sijan was removed from his cell on the night of Jan. 21 and died the next day at Hoa Lo, as reported by his Vietnamese captors.

The Academy honored Sijan May 31, 1976, when its newest cadet dormitory, Sijan Hall, was named in his honor. The Air Force sponsors a yearly awards program in the memory of Sijan; the Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award recognizes select Air Force personnel who exhibit the highest example of professional and personal leadership standards.

(September 2018)