“Emblem of the heroes of America:” Vietnam era fighter hoisted into place at Mitchell Intl. Airport

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MILWAUKEE -- The warplane of Captain Lance Sijan, a Vietnam War veteran and Bay View Medal of Honor recipient, is being hoisted onto the pedestal at its new home at General Mitchell International Airport on Monday morning, March 6th.

Removal of the Capt. Lance Sijan fighter jet from its pedestal

The plane was removed from its pedestal outside of what used to be the 440th Airlift Wing compound at Mitchell International Airport.

The jet was removed from that location so that it could be placed in a more prominent spot on the western side of the airport; a place where it will be more visible to more people.

"I can't imagine what it was like flying it into combat," said Phil Pares, Marine veteran. "Tried to get into flight school but couldn't qualify in the simulator."

Capt. Lance Sijan warplane hoisted to its new pedestal at Mitchell International Airport

Pares never flew. But 50 years later, he came to honor the man who did.

"Around 10 this morning they were going to put the plane up. So I decided to change my day and witness this. It's a tremendous event," Pares said.

Capt. Lance Sijan warplane hoisted to its new pedestal at Mitchell International Airport

The F-4 Phantom is a memorial to Capt. Sijan, who flew the same class of fight in Vietnam.

In 1967, the same year Pares was trying to become a pilot, Capt. Sijan was shot down over enemy territory and evaded capture for several weeks.

Navy veteran John Morris recalls the ill-fated search for the doomed pilot.

Capt. Lance Sijan warplane hoisted to its new pedestal at Mitchell International Airport

"So it was our job to get him out but we didn't," Morris said.

Capt. Sijan was eventually captured and died from an illness as a prison of war.

PHOTO GALLERY

On Monday, the Capt. Lance Sijan Memorial Plaza began to take shape as the Phantom was bolted in near Mitchell's main entrance.

"Emblem of the heroes of America," Morris said.

The plane will be rededicated in its new position in the “Captain Lance Sijan Memorial Plaza.” That is set for Friday, May 26th — the start of Memorial Day weekend.

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