Janine Sijan-Rozina visits MHAFB, presents SIJAN documentary

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class JaNae Capuno
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
“I am a witness to a thousand acts of compassion, sacrifice and endurance. But of all the men whose dignity humbles me, one name is revered among all others.”

As a former prisoner of war (POW), Sen. John McCain’s quote refers to Capt. Lance P. Sijan, the Air Force pilot that posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his patriotism and bravery as a POW during the Vietnam War.

In 2012, Sijan’s sister, Janine Sijan-Rozina, began developing a film based on his entire life and accomplishments to carry on his legacy and spread awareness of his heroic actions.

Sijan-Rozina visited here May 30-31, 2019, to debut “SIJAN”, an in-depth documentary about her fallen brother.

The film discusses several crucial points of Sijan’s life, including his experience as an Air Force Academy cadet, deploying to Da Nang and his actions while evading Vietnamese forces for 46 days before being captured.

Sijan-Rozina wants to honor her brother by engaging the public with his story and inspire resiliency within people.

“The first mission for me with this film was to help viewers see my brother on a very personal side,”Sijan-Rozina said. “Because when you don’t, you see him become something so iconic, and I don’t want people to feel separated. I want viewers to identify with him.”

Sharing his legacy both on-screen and in person, Sijan-Rozina visited several locations on base during the two-day MHAFB premiere of the documentary, and spoke to next-generation Gunfighters about her brother’s story.

“When I meet some of the Gunfighters that have a specific connection and heritage that’s shared with Lance, I can see it in their faces as they light up,” Sijan-Rozina said. “ It makes me feel like we’re helping to unify those fighter pilots and helps them give that punctuation in their life.”

Many base members who saw the movie were moved by his legacy, and felt like they could relate to him as a person.

“I loved sports and volunteering, but I had a really hard time with academics, so I sympathized with him,” said Airman 1st Class Savannah Irwin, 366th Munitions Squadron weapons mechanic apprentice. “Watching him put his heart into something great and his sister taking the time to come and show his story to us meant a lot to me.”

In 1998, McCain gave a speech about Sijan at the National Prisoner of War Museum at Andersonville, Ga, looking up to Sijan as a hero to whom he was indebted; a man that showed him and his fellow POWs how to be free.

Sijan’s sister couldn’t agree more. For some people, the challenges that Sijan met would mean defeat. But, for others, like Sijan, who lean into that challenge, they turn it into rocket fuel.

“We are born with factory settings, and through life experiences we sometimes shut down access to that part of us that tells us ‘we can do it,’” Sijan-Rozina said. “His example of what he did was to not shut down, but rather to show you in the last three months of his life what we as humans are capable of doing.”