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‘Our Milwaukee boy:’ Captain Lance Sijan honored on 50th anniversary of his death in Vietnam POW camp

Captain Lance Sijan

BAY VIEW -- Across the country, people on Monday, Jan. 22 remembered Captain Lance Sijan on the 50th anniversary of the Bay View native and Air Force pilot's death. He lost his life in a prisoner of war camp during the Vietnam War.

In 1967, a bomb carried by Captain Sijan's F-4 Phantom jet prematurely exploded and Sijan crash landed in North Vietnam. He evaded capture for more than six weeks before he was captured, and while the end of his life is tragic, his story of perseverance lives on.

The passing of time can both hurt and help, but it can also allow a story to fade. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Hollman isn't about to let that happen.

"He's our Milwaukee boy, so the story should be very important to us. A true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him," Hollman said.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Hollman

On the 50th anniversary of Captain Sijan's death, Hollman worked to keep his story alive.

"His plane went down in November and of course, he evaded capture for 46 days, so even though his body was emaciated and he could hardly move, he evaded being captured for 46 days," Hollman said.

Captain Sijan would eventually be captured and taken to the infamous Hanoi Hilton POW Camp. On Jan. 22, 1968, he passed away.

"I've known about the story since I was a cadet at the Air Force Academy,"

In fact, on Monday, cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs paid tribute to Sijan.

Memorial for Captain Lance Sijan

Memorial for Captain Lance Sijan

Memorial for Captain Lance Sijan

"I have four children and my second child, my son is actually at the Air force Academy right now," Hollman said.

Hollman's tribute to Captain Sijan didn't end at the memorial plaza at General Mitchell International Airport. He had one more stop Monday.

"My personal way of honoring Lance will be I will play taps for him at his grave site," Hollman said.